You may not be able to buy the latest Apple Watches after December 24th

Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 will become unavailable in US markets thanks to an ongoing patent dispute unless President Biden issues a veto.
Close up of Apple Watch side view
According to Apple, 'The remarkable sensor and app in Apple Watch Series 9 allow you to take on‑demand readings of your blood oxygen as well as background readings, day and night.' Credit: Apple

The absolute latest possible day to purchase an Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 for the foreseeable future is officially Christmas Eve. The company has announced that it will pause online sales of its most recent wearable models beginning at 3pm ET on December 21, with in-store inventory suspensions going into effect after December 24.

The upcoming unavailability isn’t due to a dangerous safety recall notice. It’s actually an ongoing patent dispute. According to legal filings, medical technology manufacturer Masimo claims Apple cloned its blood oxygen sensor tech hardware following a series of collaboration discussions that began in 2013. Although the two parties ultimately failed to team up, Masimo alleges that Apple stole tech information obtained during its meetings for its forthcoming Apple Watch design, as well as poached a number of Masimo employees.

[Related: Apple Watch comparison: Which one is right for you?]

The specific blood oxygen monitor technology in dispute is only available in the latest Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models, hence the specific moratoriums. When enabled, the latest wearable optical system emits red and near-infrared light onto a wrist’s “blood perfused tissue.” Light sensors then detect and process re-emitted photo-signals into what are known as photoplethysmograms (PPGs) to track heartbeat pulsations. These are then translated into blood oxygen level readings for users. Earlier existing options such as the Series 8 and Watch SE are unaffected by the patent litigation, as they do not contain hardware Masimo claims violate patents.

“Before Masimo, pulse oximeters were unreliable, providing inaccurate measurements and frequent false alarms,” the medical company’s About Us page reads before contending Masimo “revolutionized the industry” thanks to its Signal Extraction Technology.

A US judge ruled in Masimo’s favor in January 2023 following years of legal back-and-forth, siding with the medical company’s claims of patent infringement via Apple Watch’s blood oxygen sensors. Although Apple appealed, an International Trade Commission ruling in October upheld the initial assessment. Although the Biden administration has since had 60 days to veto the ITC decision, its radio silence on the matter prompted Apple to “preemptively” announce its pulling of both Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from US markets.

“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,” reads a portion of the company statement provided to news outlets on December 18. “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.”

If President Biden ultimately does not veto the ruling, Apple plans to appeal the ITC decision with the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The two Masimo patents mentioned by the ITC do not expire until August 2028. There is also the possibility that the two parties settle out-of-court, likely including a licensing agreement that puts the dispute to rest once and for all. In any case, be prepared to settle for Apple Watch Series 8 or older for the time being.
The last time a presidential administration issued a veto on Apple’s behalf was in 2013, when President Obama ruled in the company’s favor in an iPhone and iPad patent dispute with Samsung. A few months prior to the veto, Masimo’s chief medical officer left his position at the company for a role within Apple.