Following the latest legal defeat in Apple's ongoing patent infringement fight over blood oxygen sensors, the company is set to remove its blood oxygen measurement feature from its Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 sold in the U.S. The decision comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit declined to extend a pause on an import ban imposed by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) last year, making way for the ban to finally take effect.

The legal setback stems from a ruling that Apple's watches infringed on patents related to blood oxygen measurement that belong to Masimo, which sued Apple in 2020. The U.S. Court of Appeals' decision means that Apple must stop selling watches with this feature while the appeal, which could last a year or more, is in progress.

As the ruling bars Apple from selling additional watches with this feature, the company has been left with a handful of options to comply with the ruling. Ceasing watch sales entirely certainly works – though is unpalatable for obvious reasons – which leaves Apple with removing the feature from their watches in some manner. Any hardware retool to avoid infringing upon Masimo's patents would take upwards of several quarters, so for the immediate future, Apple will be taking the unusual step of disabling the blood oxygen sensor feature in software instead, leaving the physical hardware on-device but unused.

The new, altered Apple Watch models will be available from Thursday in Apple's retail and online stores. Despite the change, the company maintains that the USITC's decision is erroneous and continues to appeal. Apple stresses that the blood oxygen feature will still be available in models sold outside the U.S., and perhaps most critically, watches sold in the U.S. before this change will keep their blood oxygen measuring capability.

"Pending the appeal, Apple is taking steps to comply with the ruling while ensuring customers have access to Apple Watch with limited disruption," the company said in a statement published by Bloomberg.

It is noteworthy that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board invalidated 15 of 17 Masimo's patents it reviewed, a verdict that Masimo is currently challenging. In Masimo's trial for trade secret misappropriation last May, a judge ruled out half of Masimo's 10 allegations due to a lack of adequate evidence. Regarding the remaining allegations, most jurors agreed with Apple's position, but the trial ultimately ended with an 11-1, non-unanimous decision, resulting in a mistrial. Scheduling of a new trial to settle the matter is still pending. In the meantime, Apple has been left with little choice but to downgrade its products to keep selling them in the U.S.

Source: Bloomberg

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  • Threska - Thursday, January 18, 2024 - link

    Paying for things is dystopian. /s Why can't everything be free?
  • Mikewind Dale - Thursday, January 18, 2024 - link

    Because if everything is free, there's nothing to have.

    Free food means we all starve. Free housing means we're all homeless.
  • GeoffreyA - Friday, January 19, 2024 - link

    Do you mean "have" in the sense of want or possess?

    Even if some class of things were free, ultimately it is not truly so, but coming at the cost of something in the universe.
  • FunBunny2 - Friday, January 19, 2024 - link

    "Free food means we all starve. Free housing means we're all homeless."

    so: for the 1% to be fat and comfortable, it's just cause for the 99% to be hungry and unhoused?
  • Marlin1975 - Thursday, January 18, 2024 - link

    You left out the part that Apple hired a lot of Masimo employees from that division to work on the exact same thing knowing full well of the patents those employees worked on.
    "began hiring Masimo employees, starting with Masimo's Chief Medical Officer."

    Apple knew what they were doing and just hoped to out lawyer/money them.
  • hackztor2 - Sunday, January 21, 2024 - link

    And then hoped the appeals court would get them off the hook. Then hoped the government would get them off the hook. If that idea was essential should have been paid for right away otherwise it never should have been included in the device and work through the court system before implementing it...but Apple wanted that mega billions...
  • mukiex - Friday, January 19, 2024 - link

    It's not potentially life-saving. The blood oxygen functionality is thoroughly half-baked. There were a ton of articles featuring doctors warning about that when the feature was first launched a few years ago.

    Apple should have just bought the company outright or at least licensed the tech properly. This shotgun-poaching run-around was an asshole move and they should honestly be eating shit in court for it.
  • FunBunny2 - Friday, January 19, 2024 - link

    "Apple should have just bought the company outright or at least licensed the tech properly. This shotgun-poaching run-around was an asshole move and they should honestly be eating shit in court for it."

    amen. If I recall correctly, didn't Steve make a Big Thing about stealing? let's go see if we can find the quote...

    "Steve Jobs who famously said in 1996: "Picasso had a saying -- 'good artists copy; great artists steal' -- and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas." "

    you're only a crook if you get caught.
  • GeoffreyA - Thursday, January 18, 2024 - link

    Let's all hold hands and cry for Apple in solidarity.
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, January 18, 2024 - link

    I only care enough to make fun of people that buy smart watches (Apple and other brands as well) as the walking data-mined zombies paying to purchase devices that are using them to monitor their everything for additional post-sales revenue generation. Have fun crying into your beer while the rest of us popcorn time your lament that you cannot have biological data farmed from your body.

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