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Apple suspends sales of Apple Watch with blood oxygen sensor

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | December 20, 2023
Business Affairs
Apple has suspended two versions of its Apple Watches with a blood oxymetry feature.
Apple has suspended sales for two of its Apple Watches designed with a blood oxygen sensor that is the center of an intellectual property dispute with Masimo.

The company announced on December 19 that it would cease sales for Series 9 and Ultra 2 versions of its watch for online customers on December 21 and in stores on December 24 in compliance with a ban by the International Trade Commission on watches with the pulse-based oximetry capabilities. It will continue to sell its Apple Watch SE, which lacks the light-based pulse oximetry feature, according to the Associated Press.

The ITC proposed the ban in October following a review of the case. In it, Masimo says that the blood oxygen feature is based on its patented technology, accusing Apple of infringing on it. Apple says the allegations are part of a ploy by Masimo to commercialize its own FDA-cleared health-tracking smartwatch, which it says in its own patent infringement suit against Masimo bears internal and external similarities to the Apple Watch.

The ITC issued its verdict on October 26, giving the White House 60 days to review and intervene in the case. While Apple had until Christmas day to continue selling the products, the company said that it would cease sales early to ensure it complies.

“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,” said the company in its statement.

Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives told the AP that the halt in sales will likely cost Apple about $300 to $400 million in holiday sales and may cause its total sales for this period to dip below the nearly $120 million that analysts estimated it would make.

The ITC order does not affect watches with the feature that have already been purchased, or international sales. The company’s stock also continues to remain near the record high it reached the week before its announcement, reported the AP.

The ITC previously ruled against Apple in a separate case last year, saying that the wearable EKG technology in its Apple Watches infringed on AliveCor’s patents. The Biden Administration did not overturn the ruling, but it still has not affected Apple sales due to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruling that the patents in AliveCor’s case are invalid. That legal dispute is ongoing.

According to Ives, the disputes with Masimo and AliveCor indicate that the company may eventually have to enter into licensing deals or acquire startups specializing in the field to integrate these features with its watches.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says that the Biden administration is tracking the case and that U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who has the authority to decide on the matter, was “carefully considering all of the factors in this case,” according to the AP.

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