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Apple to remove pulse oximeters to get around import ban on smartwatches

Apple will remove pulse oximeters from its smartwatches to avoid an import ban that impacted the products, according to court filings Monday.

The company briefly pulled its latest Apple Watch models from shelves last month after the International Trade Commission (ITC) ordered the company to stop selling them in the U.S. A federal court halted that order later last month, resuming sales temporarily.

The import ban originated out of a complaint from medical device manufacturer Masimo, which claimed in 2021 that Apple poached its talent and intellectual property to add pulse oximeters to its watches. While a patent infringement suit against Apple failed, the ITC ruled in Masimo’s favor last year.

The ban specifically applies to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agreed to technical changes to Apple Watches on Friday — removing the pulse oximeter functionality — to drop the import ban, Masimo said in a court filing released Monday.

Apple is also pursuing a permanent stay on the ban, pending the company’s appeal, which is expected to be decided this week. If a federal appeals court decides to permanently stay the ban, the pulse oximeters will remain in the watches.

It is unclear exactly how the capability will be removed from the products, likely through software updates.

Apple has claimed the company will suffer “irreparable harm” if the ban is allowed to stay in place during its appeal.

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