Court Bans Apple Watch Imports Amid Patent Dispute

Apple is to disable a feature of two of its flagship Apple Watch devices, so that it can continue to sell them in the United States.

Reuters reported that Apple confirmed on Wednesday that it would remove a blood oxygen monitoring feature from two flagship Apple Watch models in the US, namely the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models.

It comes after the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ruled on Wednesday that Apple could no longer sell the models at the centre of the legal battle with medical technology company Masimo.

Apple Watch Series 9 brings new capabilities to the world’s best-selling watch while achieving a significant environmental milestone.
Image credit Apple

Blood-oxygen sensor

Earlier this week Apple had said it was prepared to remove the disputed blood-oxygen sensor if the court doesn’t give it more leeway while it attempts to overturn a ruling that blocked its use of the technology.

The ‘redesign’ of two Apple Watch models, the Series 9 and Ultra 2, that would exclude the blood-oxygen sensor, has already been approved by the US Customs and Border Protection. It would rather remove the function, than halt sales of the wearable.

It was not revealed how Apple plans to remove the blood-oxygen sensor, although analysts have speculated the change could come through a software update.

Now according to Reuters, Apple said Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models without the feature would go on sale on its website and stores starting at 6am Pacific Time (1400 GMT) on Thursday.

Last October the US International Trade Commission (ITC) had ordered Apple to stop selling the Apple Watch models, which were introduced alongside the latest iPhone 15 range in September 2023, after finding the models violated patents held by Masimo.

The order was subject to a 60-day presidential review period that expired on 25 December, during which the Biden administration could have decided whether or not to veto it.

Court ruling

Apple had made a motion to the ITC to temporarily halt the order while the case was under appeal, or in light of a potential government shutdown.

But in the lead up to Christmas, the ITC rejected Apple’s motion, and Apple then said it would temporarily halt sales of its Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches in the US, in order to comply with the legal order.

Then the White House declined to overturn the ITC sales and import ban of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watches.

Apple then filed an emergency request with the US Court of Appeals to halt the ITC order. The Appeals Court halted the ban while it considered Apple’s motion for a longer-term pause, allowing Watch sales in the US to resume.

Strongly disagreed

But now the court has ordered Apple to stop selling the offending devices.

In a statement, Joe Kiani, Masimo’s founder and chief executive, was quoted by Reuters as saying that the court ruling on Wednesday “affirms that even the largest and most powerful companies must respect the intellectual rights of American inventors and must deal with the consequences when they are caught infringing others’ patents.”

Apple reportedly said it “strongly disagreed” with the ITC decision and resulting orders and they should be should be reversed.

It should be noted that the ruling will not impact existing Apple Watches in the US, or devices sold outside the United States.

But Reuters noted that Series 9 and Ultra 2 models sold in the US from Thursday will still have an app icon for the blood oxygen features. But when users tap those icons, they will informed the features are unavailable.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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