You may not know it, but Jawbone and Fitbit are in a never-ending series of patent lawsuits right now. The starting issue concerns former Jawbone employees that were hired by Fitbit after leaving Jawbone. The former Jawbone employees are accused of having stolen trade secrets – and, interestingly enough, having taken those trade secrets over to Fitbit when they were hired. There is no evidence that these former employees have done this, or none of which we are aware, but Jawbone has at least filed a lawsuit alleging the claim.
Jawbone has gone on to say that Fitbit is infringing on patents it acquired from BodyMedia, and Fitbit has accused Jawbone of patent infringement concerning the use of software and UI features that mimic Fitbit’s. As with all patent lawsuits, the answer to the quagmire is usually “somewhere in the middle,” so it seems as if both companies may be right to some extent in their claims. It is interesting, though, that Fitbit did hire former Jawbone employees, and Fitbit, being the more financially well-off company of the two (while Jawbone is still living on private investors), didn’t need to pick up these employees. After all, Fitbit knew that the claims would be made if it decided to hire former Jawbone employees.
At the same time, however, Jawbone has something to prove, doing everything it can to get back at Fitbit – who’s more of a giant in the wearable space than it is. If Jawbone released these employees in question, why should Jawbone care who they work for? Companies release employees, who go work for other rival companies all the time. Apple is notorious for this, having picked up some former LG and Samsung employees to join its workforce. After a few of these “pick-ups,” patents surfaced showing that Apple might implement flexible displays and even OLED screens in future iPhones. How would Apple implement flexible displays and OLED screens, unless the company would put those former LG and Samsung employees to good use? Apple needs those employees to create the technology, so they were hired to that end. Sometimes, where there’s smoke there’s fire.
What do you think about the lawsuits? Do you think infringement is really occurring here, or is this just a case of rival companies resorting to litigation instead of innovation?