Apple has recently updated its U.S. website, reflecting a major change in its product offerings. Following a directive from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), Apple is removing the Blood Oxygen feature from its Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 models sold in the United States. This change, effective from January 18, 2024, is part of Apple's efforts to adhere to a sales ban mandated by the ITC, which found that Apple had infringed upon patents held by medical technology company Masimo.
The ITC's decision was rooted in allegations that Apple's Blood Oxygen app, first introduced in the Series 6 model in 2020, utilized technology covered by Masimo's pulse oximetry patents. In response, Apple has taken steps to modify the affected Apple Watch models (now marked with part numbers ending in LW/A) to exclude the contentious feature. Customers purchasing these models in the U.S. will find that, although the Blood Oxygen app is present, it will not be functional. Upon attempting to use the app, they will be greeted with a message informing them that the feature is unavailable and will be directed to the Health app on their iPhone for related functionalities.
This update to the website aligns with Apple's broader strategy to continue selling its latest Apple Watch models in the U.S. market without interruption. Importantly, the removal of the Blood Oxygen feature applies only to new sales within the United States. Watches sold prior to this date will retain their full functionality, including the Blood Oxygen app. Similarly, the feature remains available in Apple Watch models sold in markets outside the U.S., as the sales ban is strictly a U.S.-based directive.
The situation has garnered significant attention within the tech community, sparking discussions about intellectual property rights, innovation, and competition in the tech industry. Apple has expressed its disagreement with the ITC's ruling and is actively appealing the decision. In addition to adjusting its current product lineup, the company is reportedly exploring longer-term solutions, such as altering the algorithm of the Blood Oxygen app to sidestep Masimo's patents.
This development underscores the complex interplay between innovation, regulation, and intellectual property in the tech industry. As Apple navigates this legal challenge, the tech giant's response and strategy will be closely watched by industry observers and consumers alike, potentially setting precedents for future technology disputes.