Apple Inc. is set to discontinue the sale of its latest smartwatch models, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, within the United States following a patent dispute. This move will take these popular devices off the market during the bustling holiday season.
Starting from December 21 on its online store and Christmas Eve at physical retail locations, the company will cease the sales of the aforementioned watch models. The decision comes as a response to an ongoing legal battle over patents, particularly involving a blood oxygen sensor, a feature introduced in Apple’s lineup back in 2020, which Masimo Corp. claims to have invented.
The International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling in October found Apple in violation of Masimo patents related to the calculation of a person’s blood oxygen saturation. Consequently, Apple faces a looming ban on certain Apple Watch models featuring this technology. While a presidential review is underway, with the deadline set for December 25, Apple is proactively taking measures to comply in case the ruling stands.
Health-centric functionalities have become crucial selling points for Apple Watch, intensifying its competition with medical device manufacturers. Masimo, headquartered in California, specializes in health monitoring technology, and the company remarked that the ITC’s decision signifies the importance of respecting intellectual property rights and the U.S. patent system.
The affected Series 9 and Ultra 2 models account for a significant portion of Apple’s watch sales. Although specific revenue figures aren’t disclosed, the Apple Watch series is a pivotal component of its Wearables, Home, and Accessories business, contributing substantially to the company’s yearly revenue exceeding $40 billion.
The sales cessation will extend to older Apple Watch versions, including the Series 8, still available in refurbished condition on Apple’s website. Notably, the blood oxygen feature was initially introduced in the Apple Watch Series 6.
Following this development, Apple’s stock experienced a decline of up to 1.6% in New York trading, whereas Masimo observed a gain of around 5.7%.
Apple clarified that watches already purchased by customers won’t be impacted, and the SE model, lacking the blood oxygen feature, will remain available for sale. More details regarding the situation will be provided as the review period concludes on December 25.
The review process has been delegated to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who is meticulously examining all aspects of the dispute. Apple has stated its intention to challenge the ITC ruling through an appeal, asserting the decision’s error and seeking reversal. However, this dispute coincides with two executives involved in Apple Watch development leaving the company. Steve Hotelling, a key figure in the Masimo lawsuit, is retiring, and Tang Tan, chief of Apple Watch product design, is set to depart in February.