Oh no, not again! Apple just recently resumed sales of its latest Apple Watch Series 9 ($375+ via Amazon) and Ultra 2 Apple Watch models after a brief pre-Christmas ban. But the party didn’t last long. On January 18th, Cupertino’s prized timepieces will once more vanish from American store shelves.
Why? An ongoing legal skirmish between Apple and medical device company Masimo still isn’t (fully) resolved.
Masimo, a small California-based business makes patient monitoring technologies used in healthcare products. Several years ago, Masimo accused Apple of poaching employees to steal sensitive trade secrets.
Specifically, Masimo alleges Apple copied its patented pulse oximetry tech, which measures oxygen saturation in blood. Apple has included a blood oxygen sensor feature for health monitoring in Apple Watch models since 2020.
Masimo wasn’t flattered by Apple’s imitation. They sued, claiming intellectual property theft. That bombshell led to January’s preliminary import ban on Apple’s latest Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches. The ban briefly prevented imports of the Apple Watch just before Christmas until a temporary legal pause lifted restrictions in late December. But Apple’s victory lap ended on Wednesday, January 17th, after an appeals court declined to extend the stay.
Here we go again.
Another Apple Watch Ban Goes Into Effect
The court’s decision allows the ban to proceed while Apple fights the ruling. So, come January 18th, Apple is again prohibited from bringing newly-made Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches into the United States.
What does this mean for consumers? Well, Apple briefly stopped direct sales of the watches in December 2023 before the temporary stay. So we could see history repeat itself if Apple pulls inventory again.
That said, third-party retailers may still have supply on hand for the time being. But whether stores like Amazon, Best Buy or Costco can meet demand while Apple resolves the dispute, is questionable.
Apple’s Backup Plans
Let’s explore what solutions Apple has in its back pocket.
According to court filings, Apple proposed tech tweaks to sidestep the import restrictions. While short on specifics, it seems Apple wants permission to sell Series 9 and Ultra 2 models without the pulse ox sensor.
Disabling oxygen monitoring functionality could satisfy legal requirements and allow newly made watches into the U.S. An Apple spokesperson won’t confirm plans but getting watches back on the market likely tops Apple’s priorities.
The sooner the better for Apple. The Apple Watch dominates 25% of global smartwatch sales. Without inventory, Apple risks losing market share while dealing with Masimo’s allegations.
What Does This Mean for Apple?
Legal experts say Apple resolving matters out of court is doubtful. That route rarely satisfies plaintiffs alleging brazen IP theft.
Still, Apple seems confident in its case. The company maintains its tech improves on Masimo’s inventions and countersued for patent infringement. That signals Apple is hunkering down for a prolonged fight.
In the meantime, consumers wait anxiously for the latest Apple Watch availability updates. And Masimo hopes it finally gets proper recognition for its innovations. After all, emulation is flattering, but if credit is due, then Apple should cough it up already. This case proves that even huge tech companies like Apple still answer to the patent system.
Do you think Masimo has a case against Apple? Share your thoughts below!
Hi, I’m Zack Applegate. I’m a technology writer at MethodShop. Please check out my articles on a variety of topics, including artificial intelligence, music, movies, and silly tech stuff like funny Elon Musk jokes and rock bands with weird names. If you have article ideas, please connect with me on Facebook.