Under Armour May Consider Strategic Patent Acquisitions in the Future

Under Armour Incorporated announced yesterday its acquisition of mobile fitness applications Myfitnesspal and Endomondo.   These acquisitions follow Under Armour’s purchase of MapMyFitness in 2013. With the increasing popularity of wearable devices and mobile fitness and nutrition-related applications, it appears that Under Armour will be expanding its offerings in this space.  We have already seen integration of Under Armour’s traditional garment focus with wearable technology, as in, for example, the company’s SPIbelt Run Belt and Bluetooth Heart Rate Monitor.

Envision IP analyzed Under Armour’s US patent portfolio, as well as the patent portfolios of its recent acquisitions, to determine if the company acquired significant patented technologies related to wearable devices and related software applications.

Under Armour owns 39 US utility patents, and 36 US design patents, with 40 pending, published US patent applications.  Its utility patents are primarily directed towards garment technology, such as improved wicking, moisture, and odor control, protective cushioning systems, zippers/closures, etc.  The company owns a patent for optical tracking used for motion capture purposes (US 8,905,558), as well as two published applications related to monitoring physiological data (US 20140222943) and garments incorporating electronic receptacles (US 20140189928).

Under Armour also owns four patents acquired from RevFire, Inc. related to measuring the motion, spin, and trajectory of moving objects, such as balls and projectiles.

Under Armour’s design patents cover various consumer products, such as shoes, water bottles, sporting equipment, and of course clothing and garments.

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Regarding its acquisitions, we did not identify any issued US patents or published US patent applications assigned to Myfitnesspal or Endomondo.  However, Under Armour received three patent applications from its acquisition of MayMyFitness related to gait analysis, ranking fitness activities against peers, and authenticating reported fitness activities. It is important to note that patent applications are typically published 18 months after their earliest effective filing date, and the company and its acquisitions may have pending, unpublished patent applications before the USPTO.

In comparison to some of its larger competitors, Adidas and Nike have relatively large patent portfolios related to wearable devices and mobile fitness.  Nike owns 171 US patents, and Adidas owns 69 US patents in these areas.

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The wearable device and mobile fitness software industry is not immune to patent litigation, and Myfitnesspal was sued by a non-practicing entity called Better Food Choices, LLC last year. Coincidentally, with its announcement yesterday’s, Under Armour was  immediately sued by Adidas over nine patents related to location aware fitness training devices, portable electronic journals, and mobile data logging.

While the acquisitions of these popular mobile fitness applications may certainly provide Under Armour with a technology platform to expand and grow into the wearable device and mobile application space, the company may lack patent protection to cover its offerings. It will not be surprising if Under Armour makes strategic patent acquisitions in the future to bolster its portfolio, possibly from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, BlackBerry, or Microsoft – all companies with well developed software and mobile-related patent portfolios.

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