Monday, December 18, 2023

Apple Watch Sales Paused Over Masimo Patent

Chance Miller (MacRumors, Hacker News):

The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 will no longer be available to purchase from Apple starting later this week.

The move comes following an ITC ruling as part of a long-running patent dispute between Apple and medical technology company Masimo around the Apple Watch’s blood oxygen sensor technology.

John Voorhees:

The dispute is the subject of a federal court lawsuit and the complaint filed with the ITC, which ruled in Masimo’s favor in October. That decision is subject to executive review by the Biden administration and could be vetoed, but time is running out, and vetos are historically rare.


If I had to guess what’s going on here, I’d say it’s a high-stakes game of corporate chicken. Masimo got a ruling from the ITC that gave it leverage, so they asked for a big licensing deal. The Biden administration probably doesn’t want to deal with the dispute or look like it’s bailing out a big tech company, so I bet it told the parties to work things out, assuming Apple would pay up. Whether it ultimately will, only Apple knows, but it’s decided to force the Biden administration’s hand on the veto. If the ruling is vetoed, Apple’s existing court fight with Masimo continues, and the Series 9 and Ultra 2 go back on sale on December 26th. If not, the company still has the option to settle, which I have to imagine is preferable to pulling products from shelves for a potentially extended period of time.

I wonder whether Apple would be allowed to keep selling the watches if it disabled the blood oxygen sensor in software?

I’ve had little interest in the new watches since my Apple Watch SE has been working great and doing everything that I need it to do. However, this week I’ve noticed the battery not lasting as long, and the Battery Health is down to 80%, despite it being less than 2 years old. I don’t usually buy AppleCare+, but perhaps that would have been a good idea at $2.49/month given that Apple charges $99 for a battery replacement.


Update (2023-12-21): Nick Heer:

It is deeply weird that Apple issued an anonymous statement to a niche publication announcing it will soon stop selling a flagship product, which is usually the kind of thing it would want to tell the Wall Street Journal or CNBC.

John Gruber:

There’s some room here to finish holiday gift sales, but color me surprised that this dispute has gone to the deadline like this. Apple will continue selling Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches outside the U.S., but here, the only model that will remain available is the SE.

Juli Clover:

The U.S. International Trade Commission today denied Apple's motion to stay a looming Apple Watch ban while Apple files for appeal [PDF via The Verge], which means one avenue avoiding a pause in sales has been exhausted.

Juli Clover:

When the Apple Watch import ban goes into effect after December 25, 2023, Apple will not be able to repair out-of-warranty Apple Watch models in the United States. Apple Watch repairs typically involve replacing a broken unit with a new model rather than fixing an individual component, and replacement devices will not be available.

Sheel Mohnot:

Apple + Maximo met for partnership/acquisition talks but Apple had a secret plan (Project Everest) to steal the tech without paying. They even recruited 20 of Masimo’s team, doubling their salaries…. Apple paid their CTO $4M to come over, and in his 1st 2 weeks he filed 12 patents for sensors at Apple that were Masimo trade secrets… the worst part is that Apple fumbled the ball and the product doesn’t really work and Apple didn’t get FDA approval like Masimo did.

Joe Kiani, the immigrant electrical engineer CEO of Masimo seems to be fighting this as a vendetta - he’s spent >$60M fighting Apple so far & preliminarily seems to have won… most companies would not keep fighting.

Update (2023-12-28): Ariel Shapiro (Hacker News):

Apple has filed an appeal to the International Trade Commission’s decision to ban U.S. sales of Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 models, court records show. Additionally, the company is requesting an emergency stay on the ban for at least two weeks until a decision is made on redesigned versions of the banned models.

Blake Brittain and Jaspreet Singh (Hacker News):

Apple can for now resume sales of its flagship smartwatches, after a U.S. appeals court on Wednesday paused a government commission’s import ban on the devices imposed in a patent dispute over its medical monitoring technology.

Update (2024-02-01): Tim Hardwick:

As expected, Apple has updated its U.S. website to notify customers that the Blood Oxygen feature on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 is no longer included.

John Gruber:

Apple will disable blood-oxygen monitoring via software.

John Gruber:

This workaround definitely does not apply to already-sold watches, even after those watches upgrade to future versions of WatchOS. The reason why is that the ITC injunction is an import ban. Apple is banned from importing watches that violate Masimo’s patents. Units that have already been sold aren’t affected by an import ban.

The software workaround is clearly distinguishing which watches can continue to use the blood-oxygen sensor and which can’t by checking the device identifiers or serial numbers or something.


Because the ban was instituted by the International Trade Commission, I believe Apple could tell Masimo to go fuck themselves if Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 were manufactured in America, because an import ban wouldn’t matter.

Update (2024-02-05): Wesley Hilliard:

Apple CEO Tim Cook implies there isn’t any intention to license Masimo’s blood oxygen detection to end the Apple Watch import ban.

3 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

This and the Figma news full me with hope.

>Joe Kiani, the immigrant electrical engineer CEO of Masimo

Phrasing seems unusual. This "Joe Kiani" is the CEO of Masimo. Does it matter that he is an immigrant? Probably not.

>seems to be fighting this as a vendetta

Why let Apple steal the IP of Masimo, via Project Everest? Does not seem like a vendetta to defend your property. Curious how we arrived at this conclusion.

>Why let Apple steal the IP of Masimo, via Project Everest

Because it's Apple and Apple is always right you see? Ra-ra Apple! It's pretty entertaining to hear all these Apple pundits rail against patents, patent trolls, and the patent system just because the courts ruled in Masimo's favor. Like Apple doesn't try to enforce their patents 🙄. Give me a break.

Apple has no moral high ground on this issue BTW. They patented the rounded rectangle, among other bullshit, and took Samsung for like $500 million. Apple needs to stop being so fucking cheap and pay that man his fucking money.

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