Apple has taken the unprecedented step of discontinuing sales of two of its smartwatch models, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Apple Watch Series 9, in the United States due to an ongoing intellectual property dispute. The dispute involves the blood oxygen sensor technology, and Apple is currently engaged in legal battles with medical technology company Masimo over patent rights.
The decision comes in response to an agency order and litigation, with Apple citing a dispute around the blood oxygen feature of the Apple Watch. The company has lost this dispute, leading to the decision to stop sales of the affected models.
Apple’s official statement reveals, “A Presidential Review Period is in progress regarding an order from the U.S. International Trade Commission on a technical intellectual property dispute pertaining to Apple Watch devices containing the Blood Oxygen feature. While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand.”
Sales on Apple’s official website will cease at 3 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, December 21, and in-store purchases or pickup of online orders from the website will stop at the end of the day on Sunday, December 24.
The affected models are the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, constituting two of the three models currently sold by Apple. The third model, Apple Watch SE, remains unaffected as it does not feature the blood oxygen monitoring technology at the center of the dispute.
The halt in sales is specific to the U.S., and customers can still purchase the affected models from other sources like Amazon while stocks last.
This move is described by Apple as a pause, and the company expresses its disagreement with the order, exploring legal and technical options to ensure the availability of Apple Watch to customers. Apple intends to resume sales of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 if the ruling is overturned or resolved favorably.
The legal battle involves a long-standing dispute with Masimo, and the pause in sales is a precautionary measure until the Presidential Review Period concludes on December 25. Apple has vowed to take all measures to return the affected models to customers if the order stands.
Masimo, the medical technology company, has expressed the view that the ITC decision “should be respected, protecting intellectual property rights and maintaining public trust in the United States’ patent system and encouraging US industry.”
Apple, with a significant share of the global smartwatch market, faces potential challenges during the holiday sales season if the ban is not vetoed. The impact on holiday sales is expected to become more apparent in January and February.
The legal dispute involves allegations of Apple hiring away Masimo’s employees, stealing pulse oximetry technology, and incorporating it into the Apple Watch. Apple, in turn, has sued Masimo for patent infringement, characterizing Masimo’s legal actions as an attempt to clear a path for its own competing smartwatch.
While awaiting the resolution of the legal proceedings, Apple is reportedly working on changes to algorithms in its smartwatches to address the disputed technology. The company is exploring legal and technical options to navigate the ban, including submitting a workaround to the U.S. customs agency.
Apple’s wearables, home, and accessory business, including the Apple Watch, contributed $8.28 billion in revenue during the third quarter of 2023. The company remains committed to ensuring the availability of its smartwatches despite the legal challenges.