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Why Watch Series 9, Ultra 2 are going off US market this week?

Cupertino-based technology major Apple has announced to pause the sale of Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 in both online and physical retail stores later this week in the US.

In October, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) found Apple guilty of violating patent rights of medical technology company Masimo Corp. As a result, the former was asked to take down its latest smart wearables off the store shelves by December 25.

Though US President Joe Bidden has the power to veto the US ITC’s order, up to December 25, Apple, probably anticipating unfavourable verdict, has said to media that the Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 will not be available for purchase on its official online store from December 21 onwards and they will also be taken off at physical stores on December 24.

Gist of Apple-Masimo Saga

The blood-oxygen (SpO2) saturation tracking sensor in the premium Watch Series 9 and the Watch Ultra 2, is the main bone of contention between Apple and Masimo. The latter has accused the Cupertino-based company of having not only stealing its hardware technology but also poached the engineers and team leads with fat salary to replicate Masimo’s technology that uses light to detect biomarkers to read heart rate and blood-oxygen levels.

Apple vehemently denied the allegations. Apple-Masimo patent trial at a California court earlier this year in May ended with no clear verdict by the jury.

However, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) on October 26, 2023, ruled in favour of Masimo.

What if the White House decides not to veto the US ITC order? What will be Apple’s next move?

After iPhones, the Watch division is the next big cash generator for Apple. Within ten years of its introduction, it has grown to become a $17 billion business.

So, Apple will leave no stone unturned to get the Watches back on to the stores.

As per Bloomberg, Apple engineers are working against the clock to develop a new algorithm for Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 to calculate blood-oxygen levels of the user.

If Biden administration decides to not to veto US ITC order, Apple is also working on technical and legal workaround options to submit new application to the US Customs Agency, which is the main authority to approve companies to sell products in the country.

If the US Customs Agency is satisfied with the submission, Apple can bring back the Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 on the stores’ shelves before the end festive season.

However, Masimo spokesperson has told Reuters that by just changing software configuration won’t be sufficient to revoke the ban, as the company’s main contention is with the hardware.

It will be interesting to see what transpires on December 25.

It should be noted the ban applies only in the US market, Apple is free to retail Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 in other global markets including India.

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(Published 20 December 2023, 14:14 IST)

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