Apple begins selling pulse ox-free Apple Watches after reinstated import ban

Apple begins selling pulse ox-free Apple Watches after reinstated import ban

Following reports earlier this week that Apple had redesigned some versions of its eponymous smartwatch to remove them from the purview of a then-paused import ban, the tech giant has indeed begun selling altered versions of those Apple Watches in the U.S. as the ban takes effect once again.

Apple began selling the new versions of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 on its website and in Apple stores on Thursday, the company confirmed to Fierce Medtech.

To comply with the import ban, the smartwatches will not offer the blood oxygen measurement feature that the original versions of those models did; though the pulse oximetry app icon will still appear on the devices, the app itself will not be available for use, and tapping it will direct users to the Health app on a connected iPhone for more information.

The changes only apply in the U.S. and affect only new sales of those two models of the Apple Watch—with already-sold Series 9 and Ultra 2 devices still able to access the blood oxygen feature. Meanwhile, the lower-cost Apple Watch SE, which was never equipped with the pulse oximetry technology to begin with, remains unaffected by the ban and redesign.

According to Apple, the changes are meant to minimize the “disruption” to Apple Watch sales while it pursues an appeal of an import ban levied by the U.S. International Trade Commission last fall. The company was granted an emergency stay of the ban in late December, shortly after it took effect, as it filed a request to completely pause the ban while the appeal plays out; that request was denied this week, allowing the ban to take effect once again.

Apple has previously estimated that the appeal process could take a year or more, arguing that enforcing the import ban during that time would result in “irreparable harm” to its Apple Watch sales and, as it begins selling a redesigned, pulse ox-less version of the devices, to the reputation of its health-focused smartwatch.

“Apple’s appeal is ongoing, and we believe the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit should reverse the USITC’s decision. We strongly disagree with the USITC decision and resulting orders,” Apple said in a statement sent to Fierce Medtech.

The ITC’s ruling sided with arguments from Masimo that the light-based mechanism powering the Apple Watch’s blood oxygen feature infringed on its own patented pulse oximetry technology.

In a statement Wednesday evening, Masimo CEO Joe Kiani applauded the lifting of the temporary stay as “a victory for the integrity of the American patent system and the safety of people relying on pulse oximetry.”

He continued, “It affirms that even the largest and most powerful companies must respect the intellectual rights of American inventors and must deal with the consequences when they are caught infringing others’ patents.”

For its part, Apple has pushed back on Masimo’s patent infringement claims and has won a handful of appeals challenging those patents. Furthermore, the company has also argued that Masimo brought the patent case largely as a way to clear a path for its own health-tracking smartwatch—which itself is now the subject of a pair of Apple-filed lawsuits claiming that it bears more than a passing resemblance to certain patented features of the Apple Watch.

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