Fitbit’s Legal Battles With Jawbone Intensify After Third Lawsuit Is Filed

3-6-2013 7-57-27 PM

Jawbone files another legal complaint against Fitbit this week, this time with the International Trade Commission. The complaint is the third complaint Jawbone has filed in the last two months, following two lawsuits filed as Fitbit was leading up to its IPO. In its new case, Jawbone is asking that the ITC to block Fitbit from importing its fitness trackers, or their components, into the US, a blow that could significantly impair business model.

In May, Jawbone filed a lawsuit against Fitbit in the San Francisco Superior Court, arguing that the company orchestrated a complex scheme designed to steal strategic information from its rival by poaching employees and then encouraging them to stay on at Jawbone and steal intelligence before quitting and delivering the documents to Fitbit. “This case arises out of the clandestine efforts of Fitbit to steal talent, trade secrets, and intellectual property from its chief competitor,” the complaint reads. One example cited claims that a Jawbone employee continued working at the company for four days after accepting a position with Fitbit, during which time computer audits show that she downloaded future product descriptions and strategic business plans.

In June, just prior to Fitbit’s IPO, Jawbone filed a separate suit with the US District Court for the Northern District of California, claiming patent infringement. In that case, Jawbone argues that Fitbit is infringing on a patent it acquired when it bought BodyMedia in 2013. Jawbone is claiming that the Fitbit Flex, Zip, One, Charge, Charge HR, and Surge are all infringing on a patent describing a “General health and wellness management method and apparatus for a wellness application using data from a data-capable band,” which is legalese for a basic activity tracker and accompanying smartphone app.

Jawbone’s most recent complaint asks for a ruling on its previous two complaints within 15-months, and also seeks an immediate cease-and-desist order that would temporarily bar Fitbit from importing devices while the cases are being heard. In response, Fitbit states that it “plans to defend itself vigorously against all allegations made in the complaint to the International Trade Commission.” The legal problems have had little effect on the company’s stock performance, which has doubled since its IPO, closing at $42 on Wednesday.

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