Apple may be forced to remove the blood-oxygen sensor from its internet-connected watches if a court does not grant the company more flexibility in its legal battle to overturn a ruling that currently prevents the use of this technology.
According to a recent court filing by Masimo, a Southern California company involved in a patent claim against Apple, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has approved a potential redesign of two Apple Watch models: the Series 9 and Ultra 2. This redesign would exclude the blood-oxygen sensor.
Details regarding how Apple plans to remove the sensor were not disclosed in the document, but industry analysts speculate that a software update may be utilized for this purpose.
In late October, Masimo won a favorable ruling from the U.S. International Trade Commission, resulting in Apple temporarily ceasing sales of its Apple Watch models with the blood-oxygen sensor just before the holiday season. However, Apple quickly filed an appeal of the ruling, leading to an order allowing the two watch models to return to stores shortly after Christmas while the appeal is being reviewed.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington is expected to make a decision about extending the stay later this month. If an extension is granted, the Series 9 and Ultra 2 can continue to be sold with the blood-oxygen sensors intact.
Given that the entire appeals process is likely to take at least a year, it is crucial for Apple to secure an extended stay in order to continue selling its watches with blood-oxygen sensors. This is important for Apple as it seeks to position these products as effective health-monitoring devices.
Apple Faces Dispute over Blood-Oxygen Sensor Technology
Apple has been embroiled in a legal battle with Masimo, a pioneer in blood-oxygen sensor technology on wearable devices. The dispute centers around Apple's alleged recruitment of Masimo employees back in 2013, a year before the launch of the Apple Watch.
Masimo claims that when Apple introduced a watch with a blood-oxygen sensor in September 2020, it put its own reputation at risk. Masimo's pulse oximeters are widely used by hospitals and medical professionals, serving approximately 200 million patients each year. They argue that Apple's unreliable technology would negatively impact their sales of the W1 medical watch.
Apple, however, denies infringing on Masimo's technology, stating that their own blood-oxygen sensor has limited availability to consumers. They highlight that Masimo's W1 watch was not even on the market when the dispute began in 2021 and that it has seen negligible sales since then.
Despite the ongoing legal battle, Apple remains a dominant player in the smartwatch industry, accounting for approximately one-third of smartwatch shipments globally. This translates to an estimated $18 billion in annual sales for the tech giant, amounting to around 5% of their total revenue.
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