The Apple Watch sales ban is about to start again

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A person wearing the Apple Watch Series 9, showing the side of the watch.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Apple has experienced another setback in its bid to keep the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches on U.S. shelves. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled that Apple should stop selling the two aforementioned smartwatches over a patent dispute related to the blood oxygen measurement feature.

The company had requested that the court pause the sales ban of its latest smartwatches, reports Bloomberg. The court has declined, ordering Apple to stop selling these smartwatches during a ban period that “could last a year or more.”

Earlier this week, Apple came up with a plan to sell the Series 9 and Ultra 2 smartwatches with the pulse oximetry (blood oxygen saturation level measurement) system disabled. The company even started shipping such units to its retail outlets, but instructed them not to sell these immediately as it waited for some relief.

Blood oxygen reading on the Apple Watch Series 7.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

It seems Apple will have to go ahead with that plan and sell units on which the pulse oximetry system has been disabled by a software lock. It’s a disappointing state of affairs for Apple, as blood oxygen level analysis is one of the marquee features of its latest crop of smartwatches.

The watches faced a ban in the U.S. late last year following a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling that Apple’s blood oxygen sensors infringed on Masimo’s patents. The temporary stay on a sales ban lifts at 5 p.m. ET on January 18, 2024, according to court documents.

At the center of the snag is Masimo, a medical tech company that has alleged that Apple infringed on patented tech. The company was reportedly in touch with Apple even before the first Apple Watch came out. However, no deal was inked between the two.

Apple Watch Series 7 blood oxygen levels data.

Apple allegedly poached talent from Masimo and, years later, served up the feature on its sixth-generation smartwatch in 2020. A lengthy legal battle ensued, wherein Apple managed to shrug off some of the allegations leveled against it, but over the past couple of years, multiple courts have found Apple guilty of violating patent laws.

In the wake of the latest setback, all new Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 units sold in the U.S. will have their blood oxygen level measurement system disabled via a software update. However, the court ruling won’t affect existing units already in the hands of customers, and they will continue to offer the pulse oximetry feature.