Web Exclusive

Fitbit Did Not Steal Trade Secrets, Judge Rules

Wearable tech giant Fitbit came out on top in the latest round of legal wrangling with rival Jawbone. A U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) judge ruled that Fitbit did not steal trade secrets from Jawbone.

Last year, Jawbone accused Fitbit of infringing on patents and stealing employees with key knowledge, in an attempt to ban the import of Fitbit products into the U.S. Two of the six patents Fitbit was accused of stealing were later withdrawn, and the other four were invalidated by a judge earlier this year. So, ITC Judge Dee Lord considered only questions of corporate espionage and employee poaching when he determined that Fitbit had not violated the Tariff Act, which gives the commission the power to block products that infringe on U.S. intellectual property.

Fitbit CEO James Park accused his competition of trying “to disrupt Fitbit’s momentum to compensate for their own lack of success in the market,” according to a statement provided to Reuters. Jawbone, however, has not given up, and will continue to seek a review of the ruling before a larger ITC panel. It is also pinning its hopes on a broader trade secret case against Fitbit, set to go to jury trial in California. “The California court already has granted a preliminary injunction and rejected Fitbit’s efforts to dismiss the case,” Jawbone told Engadget in a statement. “Jawbone is confident it will prevail when the full scope of its claims is heard by the jury.”

Fitbit is the largest maker of fitness-tracking wearables, selling 5.7 million devices in the second quarter this year. Jawbone, which makes UP activity trackers, has been losing market share, and is no longer among the top five wearable tech makers, according to International Data Corp.

In July, the trade commission had ruled in Jawbone’s favor in a separate case filed by Fitbit. Another commission judge found all three Fitbit patents in that case were invalid. Fitbit has asked the full trade commission to review the ruling. Fitbit and Jawbone are also litigating over patents in federal court.