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Apple banking on software fix to save latest smartwatches from US ban amid patent dispute

Engineers are reportedly working to change how blood oxygen tracking works on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2.
By
December 18, 2023
Apple Watch Series 9
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Apple is reportedly working on software changes to go around the potential Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 ban.
  • Engineers at the company are racing against time to change how the blood oxygen measurement system works on the smartwatches.
  • However, a simple software fix may not be enough to resolve Apple’s patent infringement problems.

While Apple has announced preemptive plans to temporarily halt sales for the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 due to a patent dispute, it is also hurrying to devise a fix that will save its latest smartwatches from being formally banned in the US.

According to Bloomberg, Apple engineers are racing to make software changes to the blood oxygen monitoring feature on the Watch 9 and Watch Ultra 2 — the feature Masimo Corp. claims infringes on its patents. Apple is reportedly working to adjust how the tech functions and presents data to customers to avoid stepping on Masimo’s intellectual property.

Apple is up against a December 25 deadline when the results of a Presidential review will decide the fate of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the US. If the review does not go in Apple’s favor, it will be banned from importing the latest Apple Watches to the US. The company could also possibly appeal the decision of the Presidential review, but it looks like Apple would much rather develop a software fix to go around the problem.

That said, it’s unclear how Apple will use a software workaround for what’s really a hardware-related patent dispute to do with how light is emitted into a person’s skin to measure blood oxygen saturation.

According to Masimo, a software fix will not be sufficient to resolve Apple’s patent infringement problem. “The hardware needs to change,” the company told Bloomberg.

An Apple spokesperson also told the publication that the company plans to submit a workaround to the US customs agency. The body is in charge of bringing Apple Watch 9 and Ultra 2 models back on shelves in the US market.

The report goes on to suggest that Apple may be looking into a hardware fix as well, in addition to the software update. However, it could take the company some time to implement these changes and bring the products back to market.

A person familiar with the matter says that if Apple removes the disputed hardware from its devices, it could take the company around three months to produce and ship new devices.