Apple Watch to lose feature after US court reinstates sales ban over patent dispute

Apple has said it will remove a central feature from two of its flagship watch models in the US, while the iPhone maker fights a legal battle over a patent dispute on the technology behind it.

The company said Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models would go on sale on its website and stores from Thursday without the blood oxygen tracking feature.

The tech giant was banned from importing and selling the two models in October by a government commission.

It followed a complaint from medical-monitoring technology company Masimo that it had infringed patents.

Masimo accused Apple of hoovering up its employees, stealing its pulse oximetry technology and incorporating it into Apple watches.

Apple appealed against the ban that was imposed by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) – and in December, the US Court of Appeals granted its request to temporarily lift the ban.

However, the same court on Wednesday ruled to resume the ban pending the outcome of Apple’s appeal against the ITC’s order.

In a statement, Joe Kiani, Masimo’s founder and chief executive, said the court ruling “affirms that even the largest and most powerful companies must respect the intellectual rights of American inventors and must deal with the consequences when they are caught infringing others’ patents”.

Following the ruling, Apple said it “strongly disagreed” with the ITS’s original decision and that it should be reversed.

It added it would disable the blood oxygen function to comply with the order.

The legal fight could take a year to resolve, and analysts had expected Apple would strike the feature, which is marketed for fitness uses, rather than pull devices from sale in one of its biggest markets.

Existing Apple Watches – and devices sold outside of the US – are not affected by the court orders.

The new versions sold in the US still have an app icon for the blood oxygen feature, but customers will be unable to access it, Apple said.