Dec 18, 2023 - Technology

Apple suspends sales of Apple Watch 9 and Ultra 2 after blood-monitor dispute

An Apple Watch Series 9 device for sale at The Grove Apple retail store on release day in Los Angeles, California, on September 22, 2023. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP

Apple is pausing U.S. sales of its Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, with online purchases stopping Dec. 21 and in-person retail sales ending Dec. 24, in response to a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling.

Why it matters: Stopping sales of new products in the middle of the holiday season is the latest in a series of blows to Apple's revenue in 2023.

What's happening: The sales pause follows accusations from Masimo, a medical device company that also produces fitness-tracking smart watches, that Apple's blood oxygen sensor infringed Masimo's intellectual property — specifically, its pulse oximetry technology.

What they're saying: "Apple strongly disagrees with the order," an Apple spokesperson told Axios in a statement.

  • "A Presidential Review Period is in progress" regarding the ITC order, Apple said.
  • "While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand. 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."

Details: The sales pause starts 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, Dec. 21., in order to fully comply with a potential enforcement of a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling from Dec. 26.

  • The ruling would impact all watches from Apple Watch 6 onwards, though Apple itself no longer sells earlier models. Sales outside of the U.S. are not affected. Apple will appeal the ruling.

Catch up fast: Masimo first filed a case in U.S. district court in 2020 alleging 17 patent infringement and trade secrets violations against Apple.

  • Frustrated with the slow pace of the federal court process, Masimo then filed a separate case with the U.S. International Trade Commission, which in October ruled that Apple infringed some of Masimo's patents.
  • This sent the case to the Biden administration for a 60-day Presidential Review Period, which ends Dec. 25. It is ultimately up to the U.S. Trade Representative to make a final decision, and the president can weigh in with a veto, though that's rare.

Be smart: Apple leads the smartwatch market, with 53.9 million sold in 2022, per Business of Apps.

Yes, but: While Apple is frustrated with the prospect of slowing sales, there could be a spike in orders during the 72-hour window to make Apple Watch purchases before they shut off.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that online sales of the latest Apple Watch models will be paused Dec. 21 and in-person sales on Dec. 24 (not the reverse).

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