Apple said Wednesday it will start selling its flagship smartwatch without the ability to detect people’s blood-oxygen levels.
The tech giant will shut down the facility from Thursday after losing a patent case over its blood-oxygen measurement technology two months ago. The court ordered Apple to stop selling its Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 devices. Instead of ceasing sales, the company asked for permission to continue selling the devices after removing the infringing technology.
The company said that people who buy the new watch in the United States will still see Apple’s Blood Oxygen app on the device. But if they tap on the app, it will say that the feature is no longer available.
This change will not affect smartwatches currently in use. Apple said that people who have Apple Watches that are capable of detecting their blood-oxygen levels can continue to use that feature. The Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 will also continue to offer a range of other features, including the ability to track runs, set timers, and detect falls and irregular heartbeats.
The International Trade Commission found in October that several Apple Watches infringed patents held by Masimo, a medical technology company in Irvine, Calif., that helped pioneer some pulse oximeter technology. It banned the import of Apple watches, which are made in Asia.
“We strongly disagree with this decision,” an Apple spokesperson said in a statement.
Apple appealed the decision but lost its attempt in court on Wednesday to delay the ban on sales of its watches until an appeals court rules on the dispute. As a contingency, it received clearance from US Customs to continue selling the watch after making technical changes to remove the infringing technology.
The deal would be a temporary setback for Apple’s efforts to increase the usefulness of its watches by adding health features. In 2018, the company received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its watches to begin measuring heart rate through electrocardiogram tests. Fall, crash, and pulse rate detection capabilities were later added.
The new features push Apple deeper into the world of medical devices, which is dominated by companies like Medtronic and Abbott. Massimo held several patents on pulse oximeter technology, which measures the percentage of oxygen carried from the lungs to the body by red blood cells.
In court, Massimo said that Apple had discussed acquiring the medical device company, but instead decided to take over Massimo’s top executives and employees. In 2020, Apple introduced its first watch with pulse oximetry.
The following year, Massimo went to the International Trade Commission, complaining that Apple had stolen its technology. The appeals court is expected to deliver its verdict this year,