Apple ‘pausing’ Apple Watch sales in US over patent dispute


Apple Watch Shock
Grab a recent-model Apple Watch while you can still get one.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple will temporarily halt sales of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 starting December 21. This is the result of a decision made by the International Trade Commission that the wearables infringe on patents held by two medical device-makers.

Apple argues that the companies are “patent trolls,” but it’s not that simple. And the question now is whether Apple will pay to license the patents, or if it will continue to fight in court.

Apple Watch pulse oximeter at the center of the patent dispute

Cupertino has been locked in a court battle with Irvine, Calif.-based Masimo Corp and its sibling company, Cercacor Laboratories, for years over the alleged patent infringement involving light-based pulse oximeters that measure blood oxygen. Apple introduced the oximeter tech in Apple Watch Series 6. And it included the blood oxygen sensor in every model since then except for the budget-priced Apple Watch SE.

In January, a judge ruled against Apple in the case. Then in October, the ITC ordered a ban on Apple Watch imports and sales. The Biden administration has been reviewing the decision, but that will end soon, and Apple is moving ahead with temporarily halting sales of two Apple Watch models.

The company sent a statement to 9to5Mac:

“A Presidential Review Period is in progress regarding an order from the U.S. International Trade Commission on a technical intellectual property dispute pertaining to Apple Watch devices containing the Blood Oxygen feature. While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand. This includes pausing sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from starting December 21, and from Apple retail locations after December 24.

“Apple’s teams work tirelessly to create products and services that empower users with industry-leading health, wellness, and safety features. 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.

“Should the order stand, Apple will continue to take all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the U.S. as soon as possible.”

Masimo and Cercacor have a case

Typical patent trolls get access to a patent, usually by buying it, then demand licensing fees from companies that make actual products. That’s not the situation here.

Apple developed its pulse oximeters after hiring Masimo’s chief medical officer and Cercacor’s chief technology officer. In fact, Apple hired more than 20 people from the two companies. Apple even opened an office near Masimo’s headquarters.

However the Apple Watch patent fight plays out, anyone wanting a Series 9 or Ultra 2 should make their purchase now. Because it’s not clear when the products will be available again.

Buy an Apple Watch Series 9 or Apple Watch Ultra before Apple stops selling them

Want to save on one of the latest Apple Watch models before Apple stops selling them? Best Buy currently sells them at a discount:

Best Buy also offers the Apple Watch Ultra 2 (one size, various band options) at a discount. It’s on sale for $749 ($50 off). However, Amazon currently offers a better deal on Apple’s best smartwatch. You can get an Apple Watch Ultra 2 for just $729 if you clip Amazon’s coupon code.

And, if you don’t mind getting last year’s model, Amazon sister site Woot! is currently selling the refurbished original Apple Watch Ultra for just $529.99.

David Snow contributed to this article.


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