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Options for Keeping Apple Watch Series 9, Ultra 2 in Stores: Apple’s Considerations

Apple has already made changes to the marketing material at U.S. Apple Stores. Signage promoting the Apple Watch no longer shows the Series 9 and the Ultra 2 models. Right now, only Apple is banned from selling the affected devices and it will stop offering the timepieces in Apple Stores starting on December 21st at 12 pm PST/3 pm EST. Online sales will stop on December 24th. The affected devices will still be available in other countries at the moment and it should be pointed out that the second-generation Apple Watch SE is not covered by the import ban because it does not feature a pulse oximeter.

While President Joe Biden doesn’t have to officially make a ruling on the ITC’s import ban until December 25th, Apple decided to take preemptive action now. If the president decides not to issue a veto, Apple will appeal the ruling with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The appeals process could take a long time to absolve Apple, if it does.

Bloomberg is reporting that Apple engineers are working against the clock in an effort to make changes to the algorithms used on the pulse oximeter on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 so that the feature won’t infringe on Massimo’s patent. The technology is used to determine the level of oxygen in your blood to make sure that your lungs are able to provide your blood with enough oxygen. The problem with this solution is that the patents that caused the import ban are mostly for hardware including one related to the technology that emits light on an Apple Watch wearer’s skin to help measure his/her blood oxygen level. Apple could disable the feature although this is not something that the firm would probably want to do.

A normal person at sea level should have a blood oxygen reading between 95% and 100%. Among the medical conditions that cause low readings are COPD, asthma, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), anemia, pneumonia, lung cancer, cardiac arrest, and heart failure.

Another tactic that Apple could try to make this all go away would be to settle with Massimo and license the offending technology. However, not only is this a road that Apple doesn’t like to travel down, Bloomberg says that the two companies have not met to discuss a settlement or to work out a licensing deal. Apple did say on Monday, “Should the order stand, Apple will continue to take all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the U.S. as soon as possible” so we shouldn’t be too quick to rule out a licensing deal.

Massimo, whose shares soared 3.2% today on the news, said that the import ban “demonstrates that even the world’s most powerful company must abide by the law. Apple’s shares declined 1% after word of the import ban was released. The Apple Watch is said to have generated $16.9 billion in sales for Apple in fiscal 2023, well shy of the greater than $200 billion brought in by the iPhone during the same fiscal year.

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