Apple halts US sales of Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches amid trade commission ban over patent dispute

Apple has announced the suspension of sales for its flagship smartwatches, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, within the US. This decision is in response to an International Trade Commission (ITC) ban resulting from a protracted patent dispute with medical technology company Masimo, centered around the blood oxygen sensor technology integrated into these models.

Masimo, a medical tech firm, filed a lawsuit against the Cupertino-headquartered tech behemoth two years ago, asserting patent violations related to light-based blood-oxygen monitoring, a feature embedded in the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2. The ITC, following its October ruling, upheld a judge’s decision, leading to the ban on these Apple Watch models’ import into the U.S. from December 25 onwards. For those who are unaware, pulse oximetry utilizes an optical sensor to detect blood flow. “The hardware needs to change,” Masimo said, adding that the decision to ban the sale of the impacted Apple Watch models “demonstrates that even the world’s most powerful company must abide by the law.”

The legal tussle between Masimo and Apple has been ongoing, with Masimo accusing Apple of infringing on its pulse oximetry technology. The ITC’s decision, now in the spotlight, has elevated this longstanding conflict to a level that requires the attention of the highest office. While the ITC ban awaits a Presidential Review Period and a possible veto by President Biden, Apple has opted for a preemptive strategy, halting sales online starting December 21 and in Apple retail locations after December 24. “A Presidential Review Period is in progress regarding an order from the US International Trade Commission on a technical intellectual property dispute pertaining to Apple Watch devices containing the Blood Oxygen feature,” Apple said. “While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand. This includes pausing sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from starting December 21, and from Apple retail locations after December 24.”

The ramifications of this decision are confined to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, distinguished by their advanced blood oxygen monitoring capabilities. The Apple Watch SE, devoid of this specific feature, remains available for purchase, providing assurance to existing and prospective consumers. While the ban’s immediate impact is localized to the US, the global implications on Apple’s supply chain and distribution strategies warrant consideration. For now, the Apple Watch SE will continue to remain available for purchase, and interested users can purchase the impacted smartwatches from other sellers, such as Amazon.

For its part, expressing strong disagreement with the ITC order, the tech giant is actively exploring legal and technical avenues to ensure the availability of the affected models, including plans to lodge an appeal with the Federal Circuit. “Apple strongly disagrees with the order and is pursuing a range of legal and technical options to ensure that Apple Watch is available to customers. Should the order stand, Apple will continue to take all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the U.S. as soon as possible,” the company noted.


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