Apple to halt sales of Series 9 & Ultra 2 Watches in US, was revealed in a recent announcement made to 9to5Mac. The affected models are the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2, and they will no longer be available for purchase from Apple's official channels starting later this week, 9to5Mac reports on Monday, December 18.
This move by Apple is a direct result of a ruling issued by the International Trade Commission (ITC) in the context of an ongoing patent dispute between Apple and Masimo, a medical technology company. The dispute revolves around the blood oxygen sensor technology used in Apple Watch devices. The ITC's ruling, which upheld a judge's earlier decision from January, was announced in October and initiated a 60-day Presidential Review Period, set to expire on December 25.
While President Biden has the authority to veto the ITC's ruling during this period, no such action has been taken thus far. Apple's decision to cease sales of the affected Apple Watch models is a preemptive measure to comply with the ITC's decision should it be upheld.
Apple has clarified that the ITC's ban specifically pertains to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, as these models incorporate blood oxygen monitoring capabilities. The lower-end Apple Watch SE, lacking this sensor, remains unaffected and available for sale.
As reported by CNN Business, David McQueen, a director at ABI Research, weighed in on the potential impact of this decision on Apple's sales. He noted, "The decision to leave the watches available for purchase in stores until December 24 should help soften the financial impact of the blow of the pause, giving shoppers a few days left to buy the devices ahead of Christmas."
"While Apple is the lead player in the sector with around a 24% market share, it may not actually affect its business too much if it can boost sales in these final few days, assuming there is available stock," he added. "It may be able to ride out the holiday season without too much of an impact on sales."
For now, the ITC's ruling only restricts Apple from selling the affected Apple Watch models directly. These devices will still be accessible through other retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy. However, the ban extends to imports of these models to the United States after December 25. Consequently, Apple would also be prevented from selling them to resellers, which could subsequently affect their availability through other retail channels.
It's important to note that existing Apple Watch models with blood oxygen monitoring capabilities, released prior to the ruling, will continue to function without any changes. The ITC's ban solely pertains to new sales of the affected models.
Apple issued a statement regarding these developments, emphasizing its commitment to providing industry-leading health and wellness features. The statement reads:
A Presidential Review Period is in progress regarding an order from the U.S. International Trade Commission on a technical intellectual property dispute pertaining to Apple Watch devices containing the Blood Oxygen feature. While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand. This includes pausing sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from Apple.com starting December 21, and from Apple retail locations after December 24.
Apple’s teams work tirelessly to create products and services that empower users with industry-leading health, wellness, and safety features. 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.
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.
Apple also expressed its strong disagreement with the ITC's order and its intention to pursue legal and technical options to ensure the availability of Apple Watch to customers in the future.
The dispute between Apple and Masimo has a history dating back several years. It comprises two main components: a lawsuit filed by Masimo against Apple in the U.S. District Court and a case brought before the ITC.
Masimo initiated the ITC case due to its dissatisfaction with the progress of the initial district court case, which led to the ITC's involvement and subsequent ban on Apple Watch sales.
The potential impact of the ITC's ruling on Apple Watch availability remains uncertain, with various scenarios possible. If the ruling is upheld, Apple can appeal the decision with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. However, appealing the decision would not prevent the ban from taking effect.
Another option for Apple is to explore settlement and licensing agreements with Masimo or attempt to design around the patents in question. Apple has not disclosed its specific plans at this time, but further information is expected after the conclusion of the Presidential Review Period on December 25.
Apple's impressive track record in the smartwatch market underscores its resilience. In 2022, the company sold a remarkable 49 million smartwatches, and for the first nine months of 2023, approximately 26.7 million units were sold.