In the tech space, it seems like there’s always some sort of patent war going on, with somebody either looking to block the sale of a competitor’s products or impose monetary damages due to patent infringement. From the infamous Samsung vs. Apple battle to Google’s tiff with Oracle over Java, no space in which there is innovation or competition is completely immune to patent wars breaking out. Obviously, the wearable space would be no different. Specifically, industry veteran Jawbone, citing some of their core patents being violated, sought an injunction against relative newcomer Fitbit, looking to bar their products from being imported into the United States, a huge market for both of them.
U.S. International Trade Commission Judge Dee Lord made a ruling that essentially wiped out all current cases against Fitbit brought by Jawbone on patent grounds, saying that some of the patents cited were invalid and that Jawbone was looking to “…seek a monopoly on the abstract ideas of collecting and monitoring sleep and other health-related data.” The ruling came down Thursday, at which point Jawbone had already rescinded some of their claims against market leader Fitbit. Jawbone claims, however, that their portfolio of device patents and thus their possible case against Fitbit is still quite massive, leading to the possibility of additional court dates in the future along the same lines as the recently closed case.
On another front against Jawbone, however, Fitbit is still in hot water. The same judge that dismissed the latest patent ruling between the two companies is allowing proceedings to go forward in a case brought by Jawbone that involves former Jawbone employees. Allegedly, Fitbit courted these employees specifically and did so for the secrets about the enemy that they may hold, rather than for their talent and experience in the wearable space. Jawbone is looking to formally charge Fitbit with misappropriation of corporate secrets, which could lead to heavy fines and other punishments for both the company at large and those involved in the dissemination of said secrets. The trial for those claims is set to begin ten days from Thursday’s ruling on the patent case.