Apple is preparing to disable the blood oxygen feature on its latest Watch models, the Series 9 and Ultra 2 according to a new report by Bloomberg in a move to potentially avoid a renewed import ban in the United States. This drastic measure follows an ongoing legal battle with Masimo, a medical technology company claiming infringement on its pulse oximetry patents.
The saga began in October 2023 when the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in favor of Masimo, deeming Apple’s blood oxygen measurement technology in violation of their intellectual property rights. This led to a temporary halt in smartwatch sales, followed by a court-ordered resumption while Apple pursued an appeal.
Faced with the possibility of another sales suspension, Apple’s solution comes in the form of a software modification that essentially removes the blood oxygen feature from the implicated Apple Watch models. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, this adjustment falls outside the scope of the import ban, potentially allowing continued sales.
However, this step isn’t without its consequences. Removing the blood oxygen feature, a highly promoted and well-received functionality, could negatively impact customer demand. Analysts like Tamlin Bason of Bloomberg Intelligence have highlighted this potential downside, noting that “Apple may have paid a steep price to get around the ban.”
While avoiding the immediate disruption of a reimposed ban is beneficial, it doesn’t fully resolve the underlying issue. Apple continues to pursue a broader stay on the ITC’s ruling through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, with a decision expected as early as this week. Additionally, the company’s engineers are reportedly working on a software update that could restore the blood oxygen feature while complying with the court’s order by altering the sensor’s algorithms.
The situation remains fluid and complex, with both sides presenting strong arguments. Masimo emphasizes the importance of intellectual property protection and compliance with regulations, while Apple seeks to defend its technology and maintain customer trust. Ultimately, the court’s rulings and Apple’s ongoing efforts will determine the fate of the blood oxygen feature on future Apple Watch models.
This situation serves as a reminder of the intricate interplay between innovation, intellectual property, and legal frameworks in the tech industry. It’s a story with implications not just for Apple and Masimo, but for the broader landscape of wearable technology and its potential for health monitoring and well-being.