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Apple gets rid of blood-oxygen sensor amid patent dispute

Apple Watches Collection with Shoppers in Background

Apple is removing the blood-oxygen sensor from some of its smartwatch models to prevent a potential US import ban.

The company faces a patent dispute with the medical technology firm Masimo.

The US International Trade Commission found Apple violating Masimo's patents related to the blood-oxygen tool. 

Following a brief sales hiatus last month, Apple sought a legal review, with sales resuming temporarily. 

The US Customs and Border Protection has approved technical changes, including the sensor's removal, as disclosed in a Masimo filing on Monday.

Apple's request for a permanent stay on the US ban, pending an appeal, is awaiting a decision in the coming days.

An Apple spokeswoman said the blood-oxygen feature would remain available on the watches for now. 

The fate of this feature depends on the decision of the US Court of Appeals regarding a permanent stay during Apple's appeal, which is expected to take a year or more.

In 2021, Masimo sued Apple for stealing technology related to the blood-oxygen feature in select watch models, including the Series 9 and Ultra 2. 

The blood-oxygen sensor is also known as a pulse oximeter.

It has been a standard inclusion in most Apple Watch models since 2020.

Apple aims to ensure uninterrupted sales by making technical modifications to its watches.

However, removing a health-related feature due to a patent dispute is a notable development. 

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The Apple Watch, constituting around five percent of fiscal 2023 sales, is pivotal in Apple's expanding ventures into the health sector. 

Despite the device's relatively small contribution to overall revenue, it remains a crucial component of Apple's health-focused initiatives.

If implemented, removing the blood-oxygen sensor may prompt questions about Apple's commitment to health features in its devices. 

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