Apple plans to remove sensor from some watch models depending on how a court rules in patent dispute

Apple is willing to remove the blood-oxygen sensor from its internet-connected watches if a court doesn’t give it more leeway in an effort to overturn a ruling that has blocked use of the technology.

A potential redesign of two Apple Watch models, the Series 9 and Ultra 2, that would eliminate the blood-oxygen sensor has been approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by Masimo, a South-based company. -California pursuing a patent claim against Apple.

The document did not reveal how Apple plans to remove the blood-oxygen sensor, although analysts have speculated that the change could come via a software update.

Masimo received a favorable ruling from the US International Trade Commission at the end of October, which prompted Apple to temporarily stop sales of Apple Watch models with the blood-oxygen sensor just before Christmas. But Apple subsequently appealed the ITC ruling, resulting in an injunction that cleared the way for the two Apple Watch models to return to stores shortly after Christmas while the appeal is reviewed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington is expected to decide later this month whether to extend the stay. If so, the Series 9 and Ultra 2 could remain on sale with the blood-oxygen sensors intact.

It will likely take at least a year for the appeals process to unfold, meaning Apple will need an extended stay to continue selling the watches with the blood-oxygen sensors as part of the company’s efforts to position the products as health monitoring devices.

Apple declined to comment on the lawsuit, which revealed plans to remove the blood-oxygen sensor if the stay is not extended.

In their arguments filed so far with the appeals court, Masimo and Apple have painted dramatically different pictures of the technology involved in the dispute.

Masimo has portrayed itself as a pioneer in creating blood-oxygen sensors on wearable devices, prompting Apple to lure away some of its employees as early as 2013 — a year before the first version of the Apple Watch was unveiled.

When Apple finally introduced a watch with a blood-oxygen sensor in September 2020 amid the pandemic, Masimo claimed the technology was so unreliable that it threatened to tarnish its reputation and hurt sales of its W1 medical watch. Masimo says its pulse oximeters are used by hospitals and other professionals who treat 200 million patients annually.

Apple has denied infringing on a Masimo technology that has limited availability to consumers. Masimo’s W1 watch wasn’t even on the market yet when the dispute began in 2021, and the device still has negligible sales, according to Apple. By contrast, Apple is responsible for roughly a third of smartwatch shipments — a business that generates an estimated $18 billion in annual revenue for the Cupertino, California-based company. That represents about 5% of Apple’s annual revenue.