Apple Watches

Masimo’s Pulse Oximeter Patents Ground Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 in the US

A legal tug-of-war over pulse oximetry technology has left Apple’s latest smartwatches grounded in the US. Masimo, a medical tech company, claims Apple’s Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 infringe on its patents for light-based blood oxygen measurements in wearables. This resulted in a US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling banning these watches from import, a decision upheld by the Biden administration.

Frustrated by the import ban, Apple has launched an appeal and filed an emergency request to pause the ban while it tweaks its watches to potentially bypass Masimo’s patents. Until a resolution is reached, the latest smartwatches are unavailable for new purchases in the US, barring existing retail stock or third-party resellers like Amazon.

The dispute stems from Masimo’s patents (numbers 10,912,502 and 10,945,648) and its assertion that Apple’s pulse oximetry tech in the Series 6 onwards (launched in 2020) infringes upon them. This issue previously led to a legal battle with a hung jury but no clear victor.

Masimo, with its $2 billion annual revenue, finds itself facing the tech giant Apple, boasting a $400 billion revenue and the dominant smartwatch market share with 230 million units sold since 2015. Despite the size difference, Masimo has managed to land a significant blow with its patent claims, causing a temporary but impactful disruption for Apple’s smartwatch line.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the key points:

  • Masimo claims patent infringement: Apple Watch’s pulse oximetry tech allegedly infringes Masimo’s patents.
  • Import ban imposed: The ITC ruling and Biden administration’s decision ban Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 imports.
  • Apple appeals and seeks temporary pause: Apple fights the ban while potentially modifying its watches to avoid the patent issue.
  • Latest Apple Watches unavailable: New Series 9 and Ultra 2 are off Apple’s US website and stores, except for remaining retail stock or resale by third parties.
  • Pulse oximetry market: Masimo, a smaller player, challenges Apple’s smartwatch dominance through intellectual property claims.

The outcome of this legal battle will determine the future of pulse oximetry technology in wearables and the availability of Apple’s latest smartwatches in the US market. As both sides fight for their interests, one thing is clear: the battle for a slice of the wearable health tech market just got a lot more heated.