By | December 18, 2023
Apple Stops Sales of Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2: Here's Why - 9to5Mac

In a statement to 9to5MacApple has announced that it will soon stop selling its flagship Apple Watch models in the United States.

The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 will no longer be available for purchase from Apple starting later this week.

The move comes after an ITC ruling as part of a long-running patent dispute between Apple and medical technology company Masimo over the Apple Watch’s blood oxygen sensor technology.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Apple Watch Series 9 will no longer be available to order from Apple’s website in the US after 3pm ET on Thursday, December 21st. In-store stock will no longer be available from Apple resellers after December 24th.

The International Trade Commission announced its decision in October, upholding a judge’s ruling from January. This sent the case to the Biden administration for a 60-day presidential review period.

During this process, President Biden could veto the ruling, although this has not yet occurred. The presidential review period expires on December 25, and Apple is making this announcement today to “preemptively” take steps to comply with the ITC’s decision.

Apple says the ITC’s ban only affects sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 because those devices offer blood oxygen monitoring. The lower-end Apple Watch SE, which lacks this sensor, is not affected and will remain available for sale.

The ITC’s decision only prohibits Apple from selling the affected Apple models. For now, that means the devices will remain available for purchase from other stores including Amazon and Best Buy.

However, the order blocks all imports of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 into the US after December 25. At this point, Apple would also be prohibited from selling these devices to retailers. So, if the ruling is upheld, it may later affect the availability of the Apple Watch for other retailers as well.

Meanwhile, all Apple Watches with a blood oxygen sensor that have already been sold are unaffected by today’s news. The blood oxygen sensor first debuted with the Apple Watch Series 6 in 2020. Existing Apple Watch models with blood oxygen monitoring will continue to work without change. The ITC ban only applies to new sales of affected Apple Watch models.

The ITC order also makes an exception to the service, repair or warranty period for units sold before December 25.

Here’s Apple’s full statement 9to5Mac:

A presidential review period is underway regarding an order from the US International Trade Commission on a technical intellectual property dispute involving Apple Watch devices that include the Blood Oxygen feature. Although the review period will not end until December 25th, Apple is taking precautionary measures to comply with the ruling should the ruling stand. This includes pausing sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from Apple.com starting December 21st and from Apple retailers after December 24th.

Apple’s team works tirelessly to create products and services that provide users with industry-leading health, wellness and safety features. Apple disagrees with the order and is pursuing a range of legal and technical options to ensure the Apple Watch is available to customers.

If the order stands, Apple will continue to make every effort to return the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the United States as soon as possible.

The history of Apple and Masimo

Apple vs Masimo mistrial |  Apple Watch O2 reading

Masimo, a medical technology company, has been involved in several legal disputes with Apple for several years. The dispute centers around allegations by Masimo that Apple Watch blood oxygen sensor technology infringes on several Masimo patents.

There are two parts to this situation. First, there is a lawsuit filed by Masimo against Apple in the US District Court for the Central District of California in early 2020.

Second, there is a case filed by Masimo with the International Trade Commission in June 2021.

Masimo started its campaign with the ITC because it was frustrated by the slow pace of the initial district court case. The ITC complaint is what is pushing Apple to preemptively halt sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the US.

The ITC case and the Apple Watch ban

In his first filing with the ITC, Masimo accused Apple of 103 counts of patent infringement across five different patents. However, the ITC found that Apple infringed only two patents, covering five different instances of patent infringement – ​​each related to the Apple Watch’s pulse oximeter feature.

The ITC issued that order in October, starting the clock on a 60-day presidential review period, which is now set to expire on December 25. The Biden administration could step in and veto the ITC ban, but so far the White House has chosen not to act.

Apple emphasizes that today’s announcement and upcoming suspension of Apple Watch sales is that the company is “preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand.”

It’s rare for a president to veto an ITC decision, although Apple is no stranger to the process. The last time such a veto occurred was in 2013 when President Obama vetoed a ban on the iPhone as part of Apple’s extended legal dispute with Samsung. Prior to that, the previous presidential veto involved Samsung when the Reagan administration vetoed an ITC ban on all products using Samsung’s semiconductor memory chip imports in 1987.

The impact of an Apple Watch ban

Barring a last-minute veto, why might the Apple Watch ban happen despite the iPhone ban being avoided? Experts have argued that the Apple Watch does not have the same economic impact as the iPhone, making a Biden veto of the ITC ruling unlikely.

free apple watch ultra

Apple sees things differently, arguing that the ITC’s finding was unfounded and should be overturned. The company has outlined several reasons why it believes the Biden administration should step in and veto the ruling.

Apple believes the ITC’s decision will hurt Apple’s suppliers and consumers, which could lead to a larger impact on the overall economy.

Apple’s wearables business generated $13.48 billion in revenue during the holiday quarter for Q1 2023. This number underscores the impact of the Apple Watch on both Apple and its broader supply chain economy.

The company also emphasizes the Apple Watch’s life-saving ability to help users spot potential problems with their health. In lobbying the US Trade Representative, Apple has enlisted the American Heart Association and other leading health organizations and doctors to tout the health benefits of the Apple Watch hardware.

Another factor that Apple believes the ITC should consider is the impact this could have on ongoing and future clinical health studies that rely on the Apple Watch.

Apple says Masimo has tried to use this litigation against Apple as a way to boost the launch of its own smartwatch product. Apple filed two patent infringement lawsuits against Masimo in October 2022, accusing the company of copying patented features of the Apple Watch.

If the ITC decision is upheld, Apple says Masimo would see no real benefit itself because the Masimo smartwatch is not a replacement for the Apple Watch.

What happens next?

Right now, there is no timeline for how long the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Apple Watch Series 9 will be unavailable for purchase. The Biden administration could still step in and veto the ITC exclusion. If the ITC’s decision stands, there are a few ways forward.

Apple can appeal the ITC’s final decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit once the presidential review period has expired. As such, the company says 9to5Mac that they plan to appeal on December 26. However, appealing the decision will not delay the ban on the sale and import of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2.

The two Masimo patents that the ITC says the Apple Watch infringes won’t expire until August 2028.

apple watch blood oxygen study

There are other avenues Apple could pursue, including a potential settlement and licensing agreement with Masimo. It could also try to design around these two Masimo patents, for example with firmware changes to the Apple Watch software.

But at this point, Apple hasn’t shared any future plans. The company says additional information will be available at the end of the presidential review period on December 25.

Ultimately, there are still a lot of unknowns about what happens next given this unprecedented development. Apple says it will “continue to take all steps to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the United States as soon as possible.”

In an earlier statement, Masimo said the ITC’s ban “sends a powerful message that even the world’s largest companies are not above the law.”

A separate district court case

Separately, Masimo filed a lawsuit against Apple in early 2020, accusing Apple of patent infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets. Apple challenged the patents in that case with the US Patent Office, asking the agency to review the patents originally granted to Masimo.

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board reviewed 17 different Masimo patents as part of this process and found 15 of them invalid. Masimo is appealing these decisions.

As for Masimo’s allegations of misappropriation of trade secrets, that case went to trial back in May. The judge rejected five out of 10 of Masimo’s claims, saying there was not enough evidence to send those claims to the jury.

The remaining claims went before the jury, with six of the seven jurors ruling in favor of Apple. The remaining juror disagreed, and the jury eventually concluded that it would not be possible to reach a unanimous verdict. The judge in the case declared that the trial would be interrogated, and it will be retried at a yet to be determined date.

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