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No April Fools joke: Apple will stop selling the latest Apple Watches in the US this week

This is a preemptive move to comply with a patent dispute ruling against Apple.
By

Published onDecember 18, 2023

An Apple Watch Series 9 user review their Smart Stack widgets.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Apple will temporarily halt sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the US. Online sales cease from December 21, while retail locations will stop selling these watches after December 24.
  • This decision follows a patent dispute ruling that stops the sales and imports of infringing Apple Watches.
  • There is no clarity on when the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 will resume their sales in the US.

Wow, I did not see this coming. Apple has just announced that it will stop selling the new Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the US later this week. The move comes on the heels of a patent dispute around the Apple Watch’s blood oxygen sensor technology.

In a statement to 9to5Mac, Apple shared the following:

A Presidential Review Period is in progress regarding an order from the US 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.

As mentioned in the statement, Apple will stop selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the US. Online sales from Apple.com will cease from December 21, while Apple retail locations will stop selling these two watches after December 24, 2023.

The statement refers to an order from the US International Trade Commission (US ITC). In October, The US ITC upheld that Apple had infringed on two patents of medical technology company Masimo, both related to the light-based pulse oximeter feature. This ruling then started a 60-day Presidential Review Period that allows the US President to step in and veto a potential ITC ban on the sales and import of the infringing products. However, the Biden administration has not stepped in so far, meaning that the clock continues to tick towards the December 25 deadline.

Apple is preemptively deciding to take the latest Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 off the shelves. The decision affects these two watches as they include blood oxygen monitoring capabilities. The lower-end Apple Watch SE does not have this feature and will thus continue to remain available for customers to buy.

If the Biden administration decides not to veto the ITC decision, Apple will need to appeal the ITC decision with the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. As per 9to5Mac‘s report, this appeal will be filed on December 26 once the veto deadline expires. Until the appeals court grants some interim relief or announces its appeal verdict, the smartwatches will remain banned for sale and import.

Apple has a few other solutions, too. It can approach a settlement and licensing agreement with Masimo. It can also potentially make changes in the firmware to disable the features that infringe upon the patent. However, it remains to be seen if such software restrictions will satisfy the patent conditions.

For now, though, if you want to buy the Apple Watch, you have a few days in hand before you can’t get it for a while from Apple directly. Third-party outlets like Amazon and Best Buy should be able to sell the watch until stock lasts. Once stock runs out, Apple cannot import more units if the ruling remains operational.

Apple Watch Series 9
Apple Watch Series 9
AA Editor's Choice
Apple Watch Series 9
Powerful processor • Upgraded display with 2000 nit brightness • Gesture controls and Siri features
MSRP: $399.00
Apple's most convenient smartwatch
The new S9 chip makes the Apple Watch Series 9 the most capable, and battery friendly Apple watch to date. Enjoy improved security, improved functionality in low-connectivity situations, and improved health tracking. Introducing new Double-Tap gesture.
Apple Watch Ultra 2
Apple Watch Ultra 2
Apple Watch Ultra 2
Extra buttons and functions • Great battery life
MSRP: $799.00
The ultimate Apple smartwatch
One step closer to having a fully functional smartphone and fitness tracker strapped to your wrist, the Appel Watch Ultra 2 offers powerful connectivity and communications features, great outdoor functionality, and a semi-rugged design. The Ultra line offers a larger display than the standard Apple watches.

If you already own a previous Apple Watch with a blood oxygen sensor (introduced with the Apple Watch Series 6), you remain unaffected by this development.

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