Apple stops selling the Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 due to copyright infringement

Effective December 21st, Apple will cease the sale of its Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models in the United States. This decision is a pre-emptive measure to comply with an import ban imposed by the International Trade Commission (ITC) amid an ongoing patent dispute with medical device manufacturer Masimo, particularly regarding its SpO2 sensor.

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The import ban specifically applies to Apple’s flagship Series 9 and Ultra 2 models, both equipped with the SpO2 sensor. The Apple Watch SE, lacking this feature, remains unaffected, as do previous models with the blood oxygen sensor. The ban’s scope is limited to sales within the U.S., with these models still available for purchase internationally.

The conflict between Apple and Masimo has roots in patent disputes spanning multiple years, with Masimo, known for its pulse oximeter, accusing Apple of infringing on its pulse oximetry technology. The ITC’s import ban stems from this dispute.

Apple spokesperson Nikki Rothberg expressed strong disagreement with the order, asserting that Apple is exploring legal and technical avenues to ensure the continued availability of the Apple Watch to customers.

The fate of the ITC import ban is uncertain as it undergoes a presidential review period, providing President Joe Biden an opportunity to veto the ban. While presidential vetoes are rare, Apple has experienced their impact before when former President Barack Obama vetoed an ITC import ban on the iPhone 4 and certain iPad models in 2013. However, President Biden chose to uphold a different ITC ruling, potentially resulting in Apple Watch imports being banned due to the EKG feature. The presidential review period concludes on December 25th, leaving room for potential developments.

In response to the situation, Apple is reportedly working on software changes for how the Apple Watch measures and reports oxygen saturation. Additionally, the company plans to submit a workaround to the ITC, signalling its commitment to resolving the issue promptly.