Patent dispute: Apple removes blood oxygen measurement in order to be able to sell Apple Watch

Over the years, the Apple Watch has become an extensively usable fitness and health tool. Pedometer, heart rate monitor, ECG technology, fall detection and much more is included. And technology for measuring blood oxygen saturation is also included in some models. This pleases those who want to measure the corresponding value, but not those who believe it infringes their patent. The Masimo company has filed a lawsuit against Apple because the watch manufacturer is said to have used Masimo technology without authorization. A (partially postponed) sales ban was therefore imposed in the USA. Apple is now delivering the Watch Series 9 and the Watch Ultra 2 to its stores without the measurement software.

New step in the patent dispute with Masimo: Apple is removing blood oxygen measurement from current watch models in the USA as a precautionary measure. This serves as a precaution in the event that models with blood oxygen saturation measurement are no longer allowed to be sold due to the ban on sales.
New step in the patent dispute with Masimo: Apple is removing blood oxygen measurement from current watch models in the USA as a precautionary measure. This serves as a precaution in the event that models with blood oxygen saturation measurement are no longer allowed to be sold due to the ban on sales.

Software adjustments would allow Apple to continue selling the current Watch models

An objection to the ban on sales is still ongoing Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the USA. But if this fails, Apple wants to be prepared for the ban on the sale of its devices with blood oxygen measurement. For this purpose, the corresponding software basis should be removed and adapted devices should be put on sale. According to media reports, US Customs and Border Protection has approved the move to remove the ability to measure blood oxygen. The redesigned devices therefore did not fall within the scope of the US International Trade Commission (ITC) import ban. Approval for the procedure was granted on January 12, 2024.

It's about the software for pulse oximetry

In detail it is about the so-called pulse oximetry. With this technique, the oxygen saturation of the blood is determined by measuring the light absorption or light emission of the blood vessels when the skin is x-rayed. For this purpose, LEDs and measuring sensors are installed on the underside of the Apple Watch, which rests on the skin, which emit light pulses or inspect the blood vessels illuminated in this way. The data obtained is then analyzed and interpreted using software in the Apple Watch so that statements about blood oxygen saturation can be made. A similar procedure is used to measure the pulse. While this is to be retained, the software for pulse oximetry is now being removed from devices in the USA as a precautionary measure.

The final decision is still pending

A decision on a further postponement of the sales ban is currently being awaited. If this turns out to be positive for Apple, then the company could continue to sell its current watch models with blood oxygen measurement. However, if Apple fails in its objection, appropriately equipped watches will no longer be allowed to be imported and sold in the USA. In this case, Apple is said to have already delivered adapted models to its stores, but with a warning to employees not to open, display and/or sell them yet. The final decision on the postponement request is currently awaited. Masimo supports the approach and says that Apple, as a large, powerful technology giant, is an example of respecting the rights of small businesses.

Apple's own solution is being worked on in the background

The current patent dispute and the resulting feature removal could lead to lower demand, and not just for the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2. This would also mean that the “Apple Watch X” anniversary model expected this year would get off to a difficult start. Apple is therefore already working on an in-house solution for implementing pulse oximetry. Theoretically, if it is compatible with current technology, this could then be installed on existing devices as a watchOS update. This would retroactively invalidate the patent infringement. Whether and when Apple will find its own solution is still unclear.

Source: Bloomberg

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