If you’re considering buying an Apple Watch Series 9 or Apple Watch Ultra 2, it’s advisable to act promptly. Apple has announced the suspension of sales for both devices in the US due to an International Trade Commission (ITC) ban linked to a patent dispute concerning the blood oxygen sensor in these wearables. Online sales will be halted this week, and sales at Apple retail locations will cease after December 24.
In a statement to Engadget, Apple explained, “A Presidential Review Period is underway regarding an order from the US International Trade Commission on a technical intellectual property dispute related to Apple Watch devices containing the Blood Oxygen feature.” While the review period extends until December 25, Apple is proactively taking measures to comply in the event the ruling is upheld. This involves temporarily discontinuing sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 on Apple.com from December 21 and at Apple retail locations after December 24.
The Apple Watch SE, lacking a blood oxygen sensor, will remain available for purchase. Previously purchased Apple Watch units with the blood oxygen feature are unaffected, and it’s important to note that the Apple Watch Series 6 was the first device from the company to introduce blood-oxygen monitoring. The Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 will still be available for purchase outside of the United States.
In 2021, medical technology firm Masimo filed a lawsuit against Apple, alleging patent infringements related to light-based blood-oxygen monitoring. In October, the International Trade Commission (ITC) upheld a prior judge’s ruling, affirming that the Apple Watch had indeed violated Masimo’s patents.
As a consequence of the ITC’s decision, imports of all Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 to the US will be prohibited after December 25. Notably, other retailers like Amazon and Best Buy can continue selling these devices for the time being, as initially reported by 9to5 Mac.
Following this development, the case entered a 60-day Presidential Review Period at the White House. Although President Biden has one more week to decide whether to veto the ITC ruling, Apple has chosen to proactively adhere to the commission’s decision.
Apple intends to appeal to the Federal Circuit, explore potential settlements with Masimo, or implement software updates that address patent infringements, likely by deactivating blood oxygen features. Additional details regarding the situation will be provided by Apple after the conclusion of the Presidential Review Period on December 25.
The US Trade Representative will conduct a review of the ITC’s order, retaining the option to reject the ITC’s action on policy grounds.
In response to the situation, Apple stated, “Our teams are dedicated to developing products and services that provide users with cutting-edge health, wellness, and safety features.” The company strongly opposes the order and is actively exploring legal and technical avenues to ensure the availability of the Apple Watch to customers. In the event the order is upheld, Apple commits to taking all necessary measures to promptly reintroduce the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to US customers.
Meanwhile, Masimo has introduced its own smartwatch, which Apple contends resembles an imitation of the Apple Watch. In October 2022, Apple initiated two patent infringement lawsuits against Masimo, alleging the replication of patented Apple Watch features.