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Apple Removes Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 from Online Store Ahead of ITC Import Ban

Responding to an impending import ban imposed by the US International Trade Commission (ITC), Apple has taken its latest flagship smartwatches, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, off its online store. This ban, set to come into effect on December 26th, arises from a patent dispute with medical device manufacturer Masimo, focusing specifically on the SpO2 sensor embedded in Apple's smartwatches. While the sales ban affects Apple's proprietary channels and the US market, it doesn't impact other retailers until their existing inventories are depleted.

In addition to withdrawing the Series 9 and Ultra 2, Apple has removed refurbished versions of previous models featuring SpO2 sensors, including the Series 7 and Series 8, from its online offerings. Special editions like the Apple Watch Nike and Apple Watch Herm├Ęs, both based on the Series 9, have also been taken down from the online store.

The Apple Watch SE, lacking the SpO2 sensor, remains unaffected by the ban and is still available for purchase. However, the broader implications of the ITC ruling raise questions about how long the ban might remain in effect and what measures Apple can take to address the situation.

Apple is exploring several options to navigate the import ban. One avenue involves making software changes to affected devices to comply with Masimo's patents. However, the complexity of the patent dispute, which involves hardware-related aspects, brings uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of software adjustments. If hardware changes are required, it could take a considerable amount of time for Apple to produce and ship new watches.

Another option on the table is a potential appeal in the Federal Circuit, a process that involves legal considerations and could prolong the resolution. Apple, in a statement, expressed strong disagreement with the ITC's ruling and conveyed its commitment to pursuing various legal and technical avenues to ensure the continued availability of the Apple Watch to its customers.

A settlement with Masimo is also a possibility, although as of now, there have been no reported discussions between the two companies. Joe Kiani, Masimo's CEO, has signaled a willingness to explore a settlement, but Apple has not initiated any contact for such negotiations.

The situation underscores the intricate legal and technological challenges that arise in patent disputes, impacting not only the companies involved but also consumers and the availability of popular consumer electronics. The outcome will likely shape the trajectory of this dispute and set precedents for similar cases in the future.


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