Apple has opted to eliminate the blood oxygen measurement feature from two of its watch models as a strategic move to evade a potential sales ban in the United States, reports Bloomberg. This decision comes in the wake of a patent dispute that led to the suspension of sales for Apple Watch products, primarily linked to the devices' pulse oximeter functionality.
The blood oxygen monitor is designed to gauge the oxygen levels in a person's blood, serving as a crucial health metric. However, a ruling by the International Trade Commission (ITC) determined that Apple unlawfully integrated blood oxygen technology developed by medical tech company Masimo. Subsequently, the affected devices were removed from the market.
Masimo responded to Apple's recent action positively, deeming it a "step toward accountability." A spokesperson for Masimo emphasized the significance of a major company respecting the intellectual property rights of smaller entities and complying with ITC orders.
In December 2023, a federal court temporarily lifted the sales halt, allowing the two watch models, Series 9 and Ultra 2, to be offered again. The ITC had initially imposed the sales halt due to the patent dispute. Apple's online sales were briefly disrupted before Christmas as a consequence of the ITC ruling. However, the affected watch models were back on Apple's online store by December 28 and more widely available by December 30.
Pulse oximetry, the technology underlying the dispute, is a method used to measure the oxygen saturation level in the blood. Typically, a small probe, resembling a clip, is placed on body parts like a finger or earlobe, using light to assess the blood's oxygen content. This information is crucial for healthcare providers to determine if additional oxygen is necessary for an individual.