Apple officially stops selling its latest Apple Watches online

It’s no longer possible to buy Apple’s latest flagship smartwatches, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, from the company’s online store. Apple has removed the devices from sale due to a forthcoming import ban imposed by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) that’s due to take full effect on December 26th. Both watches will disappear from Apple’s brick-and-mortar stores after December 24th.

The ban is the result of a patent dispute with medical device maker Masimo. The ITC has ruled that the SpO2 sensor in Apple’s smartwatches infringe on Masimo’s patents. On Wednesday, the ITC denied Apple’s motion to stay the ban while awaiting an appeal.

Because the patent dispute relates to the SpO2 sensor specifically, Apple can continue to sell its more affordable Apple Watch SE which does not come equipped with the sensor. The feature debuted on the Apple Watch Series 6 released in 2020 and has appeared in every flagship Apple smartwatch since. Although Apple no longer sells most of these older devices, Bloomberg previously reported that it also won’t be able to sell prior refurbished models.

The Apple Watch Series 9.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The ITC ban only applies to Apple’s own sales channels, meaning other retailers like Walmart and Best Buy shouldn’t be affected until their existing supplies run out. The ban also only affects watch sales in the US — other regions aren’t impacted.

It’s unclear how long the ban could be in effect for. Bloomberg earlier reported that Apple’s engineers are working to make changes to affected devices’ software to avoid infringing Masimo’s patents, changing the way its algorithms measure blood oxygen levels and how they present that data to the wearer. But Masimo says the underlying patents are hardware-related, which might mean software tweaks aren’t enough to resolve the issue. Hardware changes could take at least three months to resolve while Apple produces and ships new watches, Bloomberg notes.

Option three is a settlement with Masimo, which the company’s CEO Joe Kiani has said he’s open to. But, as of December 19th, Kiani said “they [Apple] haven’t called.” In a statement issued Monday, Apple spokesperson Nikki Rothberg said the company “strongly disagrees” with the ITC’s ruling and is “pursuing a range of legal and technical options to ensure that Apple Watch is available to customers.”

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