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Tim Cook Takes a Gamble on Winning an Appeal Instead of Licensing Masimo’s Pulse Ox Patents

The new versions of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 do not come with a working pulse oximeter. That’s because an International Trade Commission judge ruled last year that Apple had infringed on patents owned by Masimo and the ITC imposed an exclusion order on the watches. Apple tried to have a “Stay” placed on the exclusion order until it completed the appeals process, but that was denied. So new versions of the impacted timepieces cannot be sold with the pulse oximeter enabled.

Apple could license the patent from Masimo and the company’s CEO Joe Kiani said in December that he would welcome settlement talks with Apple although he would want Apple to apologize first. But don’t expect that to happen. According to AppleInsider, Apple’s Chief Executive Tim Cook said during a live CNBC interview that Apple has no intention to pay Masimo to license its patents. “We’re focused on appeal,” Cook’s said. “There’s lots of reasons to buy the watch even without the blood oxygen sensor.”

The Apple Watch has become known as a life-saving tech tool and wearing one is like having a Swiss Army knife of medical features on your wrist such as a heart rate monitor, a fall detection feature, a crash detection feature, an ECG to watch for atrial fibrillation (Afib), and a decibel monitor to protect your hearing. The pulse oximeter measures the oxygen saturation of your blood.

The pulse oximeter feature no longer found on newly purchased Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 models

Not all Apple Watch models have all of these health-related sensors (such as older models and the two Apple Watch SE variants). Some Apple Watch models, even Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 units bought before the exclusion order was imposed or purchased during the order’s brief “Stay” in late December, do have a working pulse oximeter,

Cook firmly believes that there are other reasons besides the pulse oximeter to buy a new Apple Watch and instead of giving in to Masimo, this could result in Apple working even harder to develop the Holy Grail of smartwatch health sensors, a non-invasive blood glucose monitor. Both Apple and Samsung are working hard on such a tool that eventually would allow insulin-dependent diabetics to get a reading on their blood sugar without a painful and expensive test that involves drawing a drop of blood and placing it on a disposable test strip three or more times each day.

If Apple does decide to spend the money to license Masimo’s patents, which looks unlikely at this moment, or Apple wins its appeal, it is possible that the pulse oximeter feature could be returned to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 devices via a software update. Right now, Tim Cook is putting all his chips on winning an appeal. But this could be a risky strategy because if Apple loses an appeal, you can bet that the price to license Masimo’s patents will rise.

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