A Company Fit(bit) to Fight?

Fitbit, Apple, and Rebecca Minkoff – what do these three diverse brands have in common? Simple, each company has chosen to develop and produce wearable technology. Wearable technology within the retail environment consists of clothing and accessories with advanced electronic features that can help consumers perform practical functions, be purely aesthetically pleasing, or both. From a producer of fitness-related accessories, to a leader in technology, and even further, a luxury handbag company, it is clear that this trend in wearable technology has expanded across multiple consumer segments and retail sectors.

Fitbit prospered in 2013 with its release of the Fitbit Flex – a device worn on the wrist to track movement. Not long after this release came Apple’s very own smartwatch, the Apple Watch. While Fitbit and Apple both fall under the retail sector of consumer electronics – with Fitbit geared more towards fitness and Apple towards tech-savvy consumers – their abovementioned wearable technology products suggest that both companies are experimenting within the fashion retail sector.

On the contrary lies Rebecca Minkoff – an industry leader in accessible luxury handbags. Although focused primarily within the fashion retail sector, the company just recently announced the Minkoff Notification Bracelet – a gold, jeweled bracelet that vibrates when receiving calls from preferred contacts.Interestingly enough, it appears that the current retail trend in wearable technology has created an overlap within the consumer electronics and fashion retail sectors.

However, what does this overlap in retail sectors mean for the name-brand tech gurus? Simple – an overwhelming increase in counterfeit products by the competition in order to attempt to reap the financial rewards of this growing business sector. Chicly put, corporations in this retail sector must be ready for legal patent infringement battles at any time.

In recent news, however, it look as if Fitbit is not fit to fight.

The International Trade Commission (the “ITC”) dispute between Fitbit and Jawbone began in July 2015 with a complaint by Jawbone accusing Fitbit of infringing six of its patents. Fitbit responded in November 2015 with its complaint, accusing Jawbone of infringing three of its patents.

However, since then, Fitbit moved to withdraw its complaint. This past Tuesday, a U.S. trade judge granted Fitbit Inc.’s motion to drop its patent infringement complaint against rival Jawbone, ending one part of this year-long intellectual property dispute. Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pender makes this order just days after Jawbone accused Fitbit of crafting baseless claims that Jawbone was failing financially – which had sought to bar Jawbone from importing wearable fitness products that Fitbit said infringed its patents.

Fitbit and Jawbone are still litigating multiple patent cases in San Francisco federal court, and a trade secrets case brought by Jawbone against Fitbit in California state court. We will follow up with updates on these matters when this information becomes publicly available.

As for now, what do you think? What were Fitbit’s motives, as an industry leader in the technology and retail sector, in engaging and withdrawing its patent complaints against Jawbone? To what extent should companies utilize patent infringement complaints to satisfy their own means, rather than abiding by the truth-seeking function of our legal system?

In an age where technology has become the chicest accessory, one thing is for certain: to integrate seamlessly into the fashion industry, one must be fit to fight. 

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