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Pow! Right in the Jawbone: Fitbit cleared in tech ripoff legal ordeal

Judge knocks out claims it stole competitor's trade secret

An effort to ban health-tracking Fitbit gadgets in the United States has fallen apart, with a final decision against competitor Jawbone.

Jawbone made two complaints to the US International Trade Commission (ITC) last year, one claiming that Fitbit has infringed its patents and a second that it stole trade secrets. If successful, it would have prevented the import of Fitbits.

In July, the patent case was thrown when the patents were ruled invalid. Then on Tuesday, an ITC judge ruled [PDF] that there was no theft of trade secrets, killing the ban effort dead.

Fitbit was, unsurprisingly, happy with the decision. "From the outset of this litigation, we have maintained that Jawbone's allegations were utterly without merit and nothing more than a desperate attempt by Jawbone to disrupt Fitbit's momentum to compensate for their own lack of success in the market," said its CEO James Park.

Jawbone has been losing ground in the growing market for fitness trackers, and is no longer even in the top five vendors, according to IDC. In contrast, Fitbit is the market leader, shipping just under five million units in the first quarter of the year and growing at a rate of 25 per cent.

Jawbone claimed that Fitbit had poached staff who had then provided the company with details of its business plans and supply chains, and technical details of its products. Administrative law judge Dee Lord said in a brief summary judgment, however, that "no party has been shown to have misappropriated any trade secret."

Lord's full decision for Case no. 337-963 will be published within a month, once the two companies have had an opportunity to redact any confidential information in it.

Jawbone has said it will seek review of the decision. It is also suing Fitbit in both California state court and federal patents courts. ®

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