In what may be seen as a win for Masimo, Apple has decided to cave to the will of the US and the medical tech company Masimo. And it will remove the hotly contested blood oxygen feature seen on its latest Apple watches to avoid being hit with an importation ban. This comes as Masimo took Apple to court last year over Apple’s perceived copying of Masimo’s proprietary blood oxygen tracking technology, also seen on its smart health watches, triggering the importation ban from last year.
The Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 will lose their blood oxygen feature. However, Apple has not made a statement or reacted to requests for comment. Based on reports from Bloomberg and the Verge, US Customs and Border Protection has given its approval for Apple to consider selling both models of the watch, which had been banned from sale last year.
Why were both Apple Watches Banned?
Due to a patent dispute with medical device manufacturer Masimo, both the Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 were prohibited in the United States towards the end of last year. According to the International Trade Commission (ITC), both devices’ blood oxygen sensors violated Masimo’s patents.
Shortly before the prohibition took effect on December 26, 2023, Apple withdrew the Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 from both its physical and online stores. However, their absence was brief.
After filing an appeal, Apple was able to get the watch ban temporarily halted, allowing it to continue selling products in the US while US Customs and Border Protection reviewed its modifications.
Apple has been frantically altering the watches in the weeks that have passed to get around Masimo’s patents. All sides seemed to agree on the new plan to remove the feature from the Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2, according to the Verge. Customs was tasked with deciding whether the company’s suggested revisions were sufficient.
Additionally, according to Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, Apple retail stores have already received their modified watches; however, the stores have been told not to sell the watches until they hear from corporate.
While this is the big win Masimo was looking for, I can’t help but feel that Apple would be looking for a way to push Masimo on the back foot, and I have no doubt they will still try to find a way to include the feature they removed into their new watch releases for next year. However, Apple will have to bid its time as they have lost this battle for now.
Masimo was very smart here and hit them at a time they could not afford to fall behind on, and that was during the holiday season when consumer spending was at its highest. Masimo hit Apple with a very low blow, down where it hurt. And that is a good one for them. However, Apple doesn’t like to lose, and they don’t lose very often, so we should expect Apple to come back stronger next time.
Considering how confusing things are, you might want to carefully read the notes before updating your watch. If the blood oxygen feature is truly essential to you, you might even want to wait to get a new Apple Watch.