Apple pulls Watch Series 9, Ultra 2 from shelves in US after Masimo patent brawl

Get those holiday orders wrapped up now, because the bell tolls for iStrap

If you're planning to give someone an Apple Watch Series 9 or Ultra 2 for the holidays you'd better act fast: Apple plans to pull both models from shelves in the United States in mere days after losing a patent fight earlier this year. 

The US International Trade Commission ruled in October that Apple had violated patents held by health technology firm Masimo for measuring blood oxygen levels, which Apple added to the Series 6 watch in 2020. The ITC's ruling would prevent the import of Apple Watches into America that infringe the patents in question. 

A Presidential review period, with the option for President Biden to veto the order, will end on December 25, but Apple is reportedly proactively making the Series 9 and Ultra 2 unavailable, in the US at least, beginning on December 21 for online sales and December 24 for in-store purchases. Apple advises the 21st is the last day to buy the wearables online with guaranteed pre-Chrissy delivery. The company has therefore cost itself one whole day of online sales.

Presidential vetoes of ITC decisions are incredibly rare; the last was in 2013 and also involved Apple. In that case, then-President Barack Obama vetoed an ITC decision to ban imports of iPhone and iPad models infringing on Samsung patents covering the handling of CDMA wireless signals. 

We were unable to reach Apple for comment, but the iGiant told 9to5Mac of the move in a statement

"​​Apple strongly disagrees with the order and is pursuing a range of legal and technical options to ensure that Apple Watch is available to customers," the iMaker reportedly told 9to5Mac. "Should the order stand, Apple will continue to take all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the U.S. as soon as possible." 

It's whispered Apple may attempt to use a software update to work around the patent kerfuffle, while Masimo has insisted a hardware redesign is necessary.

The Apple Watch SE, the only other series currently being sold by Apple, doesn't contain blood oxygen sensing hardware, and this isn't included in the import ban or planned shelf-pulling.

Masimo and Apple have been wrangling in court and with regulators for some time. A trial earlier this year between the pair in California ended in a mistrial when jurors couldn't unanimously agree on a verdict. Apple has also sued Masimo, accusing it of infringing on Apple patents and using legal action to clear a path for the company's own brand of smart watches. 

Despite the looming Watch ban, Apple actually won a case against Masimo before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in September. The PTAB found Masimo's patents invalid due to prior patent filings for similar technology, but it appears Apple has caved to the ITC's finding the opposite, so get those Christmas orders finalized ASAP. 

Apple is also facing a second import ban on the Apple Watch after the ITC found late last year that Cupertino had infringed on electrocardiogram patents held by AliveCor, which made ECG-capable bands for older models of the Apple Watch. That ban is currently on hold pending appeals. ®

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