Apple has halted the online sales of its Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the United States due to a patent dispute. According to MacRumors, this decision comes just before the enforcement of an import ban on these models. Visitors to Apple’s online store will now find these devices marked as “currently unavailable.” Additionally, Apple has withdrawn refurbished Series 7 and Series 8 models from its website.
The suspension of sales is in compliance with an International Trade Commission order. This order prevents the import of components linked to the Apple Watch’s blood oxygen monitoring technology, which the ITC found to infringe on patents owned by Masimo, a medical device company.
Retail sales to cease post-Dec. 24
While the Apple Watch is still purchasable at Apple’s brick-and-mortar stores, sales will end after Dec. 24. The ban is confined to the United States and only affects Apple’s direct retail channels. However, third-party retailers like Target, Walmart, and Best Buy are allowed to continue selling the Apple Watch until their stock runs out. The Apple Watch SE, which does not feature a blood oxygen sensor, is exempt from this ban and will remain available for sale.
The fate of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 now hinges on the White House’s decision, which has until Dec. 25 to review the order and potentially veto the import ban. If the ban remains unchallenged, Apple will be unable to sell the affected models until it removes the technology that infringes on Masimo’s patents.
In an effort to overturn the decision, Apple is set to appeal on Dec. 26. The company is actively seeking various legal and technical solutions to resume sales as quickly as possible. One potential resolution being explored is a software update. Apple’s engineers are working on modifying the method for measuring oxygen saturation and the way this data is relayed to users. The company hopes that this software approach could persuade U.S. Customs to lift the ban. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is uncertain, as the patents in question are related to hardware components.