A federal appeals court has ruled that Apple cannot sell its Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watches in the United States. The decision comes as part of a patent dispute with medical technology company Masimo, which is around the inclusion of a blood oxygen measurement feature in Apple watches.
The legal struggle between Apple and Masimo is on patents related to pulse oximetry technology, specifically the blood oxygen measurement feature embedded in Apple Watches.
Masimo, a medical device company, has accused Apple of not only infringing on its intellectual property but also poaching employees who were involved in developing the pulse oximetry technology.
The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) had initially ruled in favor of Masimo in October, issuing an order to halt certain imports and sales of Apple Watches 9 and Ultra 2 models.
The ban was set to go into effect in late December, making Apple to temporarily halt sales of the affected watches while appealing the decision.
The Federal Circuit lifted the ban on December 27th, allowing Apple to resume sales while considering the tech giant’s request for a longer-term pause.
The latest ruling by the appeals court on January 17th has now reinstated the ban, prohibiting the import of the specified Apple Watches.
The ban has problems for Apple, affecting one of its flagship products in the market. Apple Watches 9 and Ultra 2 models with the blood oxygen feature are barred from importation starting from 5 p.m. ET on January 18th.
Apple has announced its intention to comply with the ruling. The company plans to remove the disputed blood oxygen reading feature from the affected models to ensure continued sales in the U.S. market.
The redesigned Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watches without the pulse oximeter function are set to go on sale, both online and in stores, starting at 6 a.m. Pacific time on the following day.
Court filings reveal that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has approved a proposed redesign from Apple, allowing the importation of reconfigured Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watches without violating the ITC’s restrictions.
However, the details of this redesign have not been publicly disclosed, leaving room for speculation about software updates.
The legal battle between Apple and Masimo is expected to be protracted, with analysts predicting a year-long fight.
Apple has appealed the ITC’s decision, and the company is pushing for a long-term pause on the ban for the duration of the appeals process. The nature of the dispute shows that both parties are prepared for a protracted legal battle.
Masimo’s allegations against Apple patent infringement, includes claims of employee poaching and theft of pulse oximetry technology.
Masimo’s CEO, Joe Kiani, stated that the recent court ruling addresses the importance of respecting intellectual property rights, asserting that even the largest companies must face consequences when infringing on others’ patents.
While the legal proceedings affect sales in the United States, the importance of Apple Watch sales in the wearables segment cannot be understated.
Apple’s wearables, home, and accessory business, including the Apple Watches, contributed $8.28 billion in revenue during the third quarter of 2023.
Apple’s market position, both in the smartwatch segment and the consumer electronics industry, remains strong.
Apple’s overall market share and brand loyalty are likely to mitigate the impact of the ban on the Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watches.