Judge rules against Jawbone in patent dispute with Fitbit

Steven Loeb · April 29, 2016 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/4525

The two companies will still be going to court over alleged stealing of trade secrets

In the run up to Fitbit's IPO last year, one of its main rivals took the opportunity to throw the book at the company, through a series of lawsuits. Jawbone alleged patent infringement, as well as the stealing of trade secrets, and the two companies now have a series of lawsuit pending against each other.

At least one of those matters has now been ruled on, if not entirely resolved, as International Trade Commission judge Dee Lord has ruled in favor of Fitbit on the patent dispute, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

There were six patents that Jawbone had originally accused Fitbit of violating. Since then, Jawbone itself had withdrawn one of the patents, and Lord invalidated three of them in a ruling last month. Now she has also decided to invalidate the last two remaining patents. 

"Fitbit competes directly with Jawbone in the market for wearable fitness and activity trackers through its product line, most notably the Zip, One, Flex, Charge, Charge HR, Surge," the company said in its original complaint. "These trackers – which make up virtually all of Fitbit’s wearable technology line – infringe one or more of the Jawbone patents."

Not only was Jawbone seeking to halt all sales of Fitbit products, but to stop them from being imported into the country in the first place, stating that it was going to file a complaint with the ITC.

Lord, however, took Fitbit's side, reasoning that, through its patents, Jawbone was attempting to “seek a monopoly on the abstract ideas of collecting and monitoring sleep and other health-related data.”

This is not the end of the fight, however, as Jawbone has already said it will appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, the other case that Jawbone filed against Fitbit, in which it accused the company "clandestine efforts," which were done to "steal talent, trade secrets, and intellectual property" from Jawbone, is still being allowed to go forward.

Around 30% of Jawbone employees were allegedly contacted by Fitbit, and the company got at least five to jump ship. Fitbit did this, the filing alleged, through "lofty promises and expectations" leading up to its IPO.

When those employees went over to Fitbit, Jawbone said, they brought "access to, and key knowledge of, key aspects of Jawbone's business and the future direction of the market and business."

Fitbit was also accused of downloading documents related to Jawbone's business plans, technology and products. All of this was done because, according to Jawbone, Fitbit "lacked the proprietary technology, capabilities and expertise to progress to the next generation" of wearables. So they needed to steal it from Jawbone.

The case is going to court on May 9, and if the ruling goes in Jawbone's favor, the ruling would allow it to stop Fitbit's imports from entering the U.S. That end result still seems unlikely, however, given the number of steps that it would take to enforce such an order. 

"The two patents that are the subject of the ITC ruling represent only a portion of Jawbone's case against Fitbit and a small subset of Jawbone's overall patent portfolio," a Jawbone representative told VatorNews. "The Court confirmed that Fitbit will face a trial in 10 days on claims that it misappropriated Jawbone's trade secrets. In the meantime, the patent ruling will be appealed."

VatorNews reached out to Fitbit for comment, but a Fitbit spokesperson declined to comment on the ruling.

(Image source: watchdogwire.com)

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