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Fitbit employees face intellectual property litigation

Ten thousand is the minimum number of steps experts say a healthy person should take in a day. For those in New York whose jobs are sedentary, keeping track of those steps has become easier and more fun. Gone are the days when fitness enthusiasts attached bulky pedometers to their ankles or wrists and hoped for a rough estimate of the number of steps they took or miles they covered in a day. Now, more people are strapping sleek and stylish Fitbit devices to their wrists. However, some Fitbit employees are facing intellectual property litigation.

The six employees had previously worked at a rival manufacturer of wearable technology, Jawbone. Jawbone was known as the primary rival of Fitbit after it added fitness wearables to its line of other devices, such as portable music devices and Bluetooth communications. When Fitbit launched its own line of tracking devices, the company allegedly attempted to recruit many of Jawbone’s employees.

Six of those workers joined Fitbit in 2015, and Jawbone filed a lawsuit against Fitbit, which the two companies settled. However, Jawbone contends that the former workers took trade secrets with them to Fitbit, and they notified the International Trade Commission. Shortly after the employees’ moved from Jawbone to Fitbit, the former company began to struggle to compete and is now undergoing liquidation bankruptcy. The employees are under indictment for federal charges of stealing trade secrets.

The success or demise of a company often hinges on the edge the company attains through its trade secrets. When an employee divulges those trade secrets to the company’s main rival, the results can be disastrous. A New York entrepreneur does not have to own an international business to have trade secrets he or she wants to protect. Sometimes it may take intellectual property litigation to seek justice when those secrets fall into the hands of competitors.