Apple stops selling some Apple Watches in the US – CNN

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Shoppers wait in line outside the Apple Fifth Avenue store in New York, USA, on Friday, September 22, 2023. Apple Inc.’s latest iPhones and watches went on sale Friday, a test of whether a new smartphone design and humble smartwatch changes can help put the company back on track for growth. Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New York CNN –

Apple plans to stop selling some versions of the Apple Watch in the US as early as this week, heading off what could be one of the most consequential patent disputes in years.

The company confirmed to CNN that it will no longer sell its Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 on starting Thursday and in retail stores starting December 24.

The decision to remove one of its most popular products follows an ongoing dispute with medical device maker Masimo over its blood oxygen function. Apple has regularly marketed its smartwatch as a life-saving device, which has helped propel the Apple Watch into the stratosphere and make it the most popular watch sold worldwide. But the battle with Masimo threatens to undermine this.

In October, the U.S. Commission on International Trade ruled that Apple was infringing on Masimo’s pulse oximeter patent, which uses light-based technology to measure blood oxygen levels. President Biden has 60 days to review the ruling before a ban could take effect.

“While the review period does not end until December 25, Apple is taking preemptive steps to comply with the ruling should the ruling stand,” the company said in a statement.

It added: “Apple strongly disagrees with the order and is exploring a range of legal and technical options to ensure Apple Watch is available to customers.”

The company said that if the order stands, it will “continue to take all measures to return the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the United States as quickly as possible.”

Other models remain available for purchase, but an import ban would impact Apple Watch Series 6 and later, as well as any Apple Watch Ultra models imported after the end of an upcoming trial period. However, according to Apple, it will not affect sales of the Apple Watch SE.

Apple launched its Series 9 phone in September. It features a custom S9 chip for faster processing and allows the watch to be controlled through hand gestures, thanks in part to an improved neural engine that processes data from sensors and machine learning.

Apple said it firmly believes the ITC’s findings were inaccurate and should be reversed. It also plans to submit the decision to the Federal Circuit.

Furthermore, Apple said so has presented evidence showing that a ban would negatively impact healthcare, scientific and medical research, and Apple Watch users who rely on ECG, blood oxygen and other health-related features.

Masimo CEO Joe Kiani told CNN he believes the decision to stop selling the devices is the latest salvo in the ongoing patent dispute.

“This was a deliberate violation,” Kiani said, calling the sales freeze a pressure tactic on Biden.

Apple hasn’t tried to resolve the case with Masimo, but Kiani said he was open to it.

The companies have long been embroiled in ongoing disputes. In October 2022, Apple filed two patent infringement lawsuits against Masimo, alleging that the company copied patented Apple Watch features from the Apple Watch into Masimo’s M1 medical smartwatch.

David McQueen, a director of ABI Research said the decision to keep the watches on sale until December 24 should help mitigate the financial impact of the pause and give buyers a few days to buy the devices before Christmas.

“Although Apple is the leading player in the industry with a market share of about 24%, if it can increase sales in these last few days, it may not affect its business too much, provided stocks are available,” he said. “It might be possible to get through the holiday season without having too much of an impact on sales.”

Apple sold 49 million smartwatches in 2022 and around 26.7 million in the first 9 months of 2023.

“It will be interesting to see how long the dispute will last or when Apple will open its wallet and when the ban will be lifted,” he added.