Apple Watch sales ban is back, but there’s a fallback option


Apple Watch Blood Oxygen app
The Apple Watch Blood Oxygen app is at the heart of a sales ban for the wearable.
Image: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple lost a court appeal Wednesday, which means Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 might once again get pulled from U.S. store shelves. The court agrees with previous rulings that the wearables are in violation of a patent held by a medical-device company.

But Apple has a workaround: it’s almost certainly going to remove the application at the center of the patent dispute.

An Apple Watch sales ban … again

Apple is locked in a court battle with Irvine, Calif.-based Masimo Corp. The alleged patent infringement involves light-based pulse oximeters that measure blood oxygen. As a result, Apple Watch sales have been banned, reinstated and now banned again in only a few weeks.

In late December, the latest Watch models were pulled from store shelves because they infringe on patents owned by the medical-device companies. But then a federal court granted a temporary stay to give Apple time to appeal.

But now a federal appeals court shot down that appeal, according to Bloomberg. And it’s ordered the Apple Watch sales ban to be reinstated at  5 p.m. E.S.T. on Thursday.

Apple has a fallback option

If Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 get removed from store shelves, it probably won’t be for long. Their creator is ready to evade the restriction by deleting the Blood Oxygen application from the wearables.

That would disable the function and allow the devices to continue to be sold in the United States.

Supposedly, the application removal won’t affect current users, just ones that up for sale. That said, if the Blood Oxygen application is deleted from new units, Apple Watch wearers should be wary of watchOS updates for a while. These will quite possibly remove the blood oxygen app from current devices.

Sales ban a long term problem for Apple Watch

The loss in its patent dispute with Masimo isn’t one that Apple can easily shake off. It can describe the medical device company as a patent troll all it wants, but the courts don’t agree.

That’s not surprising — the case looks bad for the Mac-maker. It developed its pulse oximeters after hiring Masimo’s chief medical officer and the chief technology officer for Cercacor, its sibling company. In fact, Apple hired more than 20 people from the two companies. Apple even opened an office near Masimo’s headquarters.

And as it stands now, the expected Apple Watch X can’t launch this fall with an important health feature.

But there are options. One potential long-term solution is for Apple to license the patents in question. Masimo’s CEO already said they’re open to discussions.

Another is for the Mac-maker to find an alternative way to do the same job without infringing on the patents. But if that was easy, company engineers surely would have done so already.


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