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Apple engineers are "racing" to change the algorithms used for the blood oxygen sensor in the Apple Watch to avoid having to halt device sales, reports Bloomberg. Apple earlier today said that it will stop selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the United States starting on December 21 due to an imminent import ban stemming from a patent dispute with medical device company Masimo.


Sources that spoke to Bloomberg said that engineers are adjusting how oxygen saturation is determined and how the data is provided to customers, updates that will presumably remove technology that is allegedly violating Masimo patents. The work is in line with Apple's statement that it is "pursuing a range of legal and technical options" to make sure that Apple Watch sales are able to resume as soon as possible.

Masimo's patents are related to the hardware that powers the Apple Watch blood oxygen sensor, and Masimo believes that a software change will not be enough to address the patent violations. "The hardware needs to change," Masimo told Bloomberg.

An Apple spokesperson told Bloomberg that it is working to submit a workaround, so Apple seems to think a software-based solution will be sufficient. It is unlikely that a software fix will be deployed before sales stop, as Apple will need to test the changes. Hardware updates would take several months at a minimum.

Back in October, the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) ordered a ban on some Apple Watch imports into the U.S. after ruling that Apple violated Masimo patents related to non-invasive blood oxygen sensing. U.S. President Joe Biden could review the court's order and veto the ban ahead of when Apple will need to stop selling the Apple Watch, but presidential vetoes of ITC bans are rare.

While the White House has until December 25 to make a decision, Apple has decided to preemptively prepare to comply with the ITC's ruling. Apple will stop selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 in U.S. retail stores on December 21 after 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time, and online sales will stop after December 24. The Apple Watch will remain available in other countries, and this does not impact the Apple Watch SE because it does not have a blood oxygen sensor.

Apple plans to appeal the ITC's order with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on December 26 if a veto does not come through. Apple's statement from earlier today:
A Presidential Review Period is in progress regarding an order from the U.S. International Trade Commission on a technical intellectual property dispute pertaining to Apple Watch devices containing the Blood Oxygen feature. While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand. This includes pausing sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from Apple.com starting December 21, and from Apple retail locations after December 24. The decision does not impact sales of the devices in other countries at this time.

Apple's teams work tirelessly to create products and services that empower users with industry-leading health, wellness, and safety features. Apple strongly disagrees with the order and is pursuing a range of legal and technical options to ensure that Apple Watch is available to customers.

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.
The Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 are the only Apple Watch models that Apple sells with blood oxygen sensing technology at the current time (with the exception of refurbished models), though older Apple Watches also use the same technology. Customers will still be able to get their devices repaired and replaced if the ban goes through. Third-party retailers will be able to continue sales until supplies dry up, so those looking for an Apple Watch Series 9 or Ultra 2 ahead of the holidays can get one from stores like Best Buy and Target.

If Apple is not able to remove the infringing technology or appeal the ITC's decision, settling with Masimo is a possibility, but there are so far no signs that Apple and Masimo are engaged in settlement talks.

Article Link: Apple Working on Software Fix to Avoid U.S. Apple Watch Import Ban
 
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adamw

macrumors 6502a
Sep 22, 2006
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Change the algorithms and patented methods used to avoid patent infringement. Apple will do everything it can to keep selling the Apple Watch, after investing so much in the product's intellectual property over the years.
 

jz0309

Contributor
Sep 25, 2018
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SoCal
I do not know the patent(s) in question but according to Marino it is a HW patent, how SW could provide a “fix” is baffling in this case…
To me it certainly seems the 2 parties had plenty time for either a settlement or royalty, and at this point it is also not clear who is the more stubborn one.
At the end of the day this has the potential to hurt us consumers
 

anshuvorty

macrumors 68040
Sep 1, 2010
3,368
4,838
California, USA
The verdict is from October so there was no reason to turn this into a “rush”, so, no, it doesn’t make sense
You are completely right, Apple could've been working on the patch since October and could've just waited until now to test it out before deploying it, but it looks like they didn't even make that effort, so they are "rushing." Crazy times at Apple!
 

Will Co

macrumors 6502
Feb 21, 2021
369
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United Kingdom
It's possible a SW workaround would be sufficient. Imagine the hardware in question - the critical part protected by the patent - could be turned off or reconfigured in such a way as to not infringe. Obviously I have no idea how it all works so this could indeed be a silly suggestion but then again, it might not. It all depends on the exact details of the infringement. But if it could be turned off (what would the consequences be for the user?) then that might be sufficient to sidestep the ban because then no infringing technology is being used and no benefit gained by Apple/harm caused to the patent owner.
 
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