Fitbit and Jawbone Have Very Different Patent Strategies

After Fitbit, Inc.’s successful IPO last week, the company is reportedly focused on increasing its product and services offerings by investing in research and development. Envision IP reviewed the US patent portfolios of Fitbit and Jawbone to understand how the two companies are protecting the innovations stemming from their R&D investments. The result is surprising, and indicates that each company has a very different approach on how they obtain patents.

According to Fitbit’s S-1, the company owned 77 US patents as of March 31, 2015. However, as today, we identified 100 US patents assigned to the company, with 23 patents issuing between April and June of this year. 55 of Fitbit’s US patents are related to software, with 7 patents listed in Class 705, the business methods classification at the USPTO.

The portfolio includes 89 utility patents, and 11 design patents. Interestingly, many of the design patents were assigned to Fitbit from New Deal Design, Inc.

Fitbit_US_Patent_Portfolio_EnvisionIP

On the other hand,  Jawbone has appeared to have taken a different approach to amassing a patent portfolio. Jawbone, through its parent company AliphCom, Inc., owns 156 US patents. 147 of these patents were acquired through AliphCom’s purchase of BodyMedia, Inc. in 2013 for over $100 million. Jawbone’s patent portfolio includes a high percentage of design patents; the company owns 78 US design patents, representing 50% of its US patents, compared to roughly 11% for Fitbit. Furthermore, 23 of Jawbone’s patents are related to software, with 7 patents listed in Class 705.

Jawbone_US_Patent_Portfolio_EnvisionIP

The patent data indicates that Jawbone’s patents are more focused on hardware for its wearable tracking devices, versus Fitbit, where a majority of its patents are focused on software related to user experience and data processing for its devices.

Fitbit_Jawbone_Patent_Breakdown_EnvisionIP

Jawbone recently filed a patent infringement suit this month against Fitbit, where it asserted three patents originally owned by BodyMedia:

US 8446275 entitled “General health and wellness management method and apparatus for a wellness application using data from a data-capable band”;
US 8398546 entitled “System for monitoring and managing body weight and other physiological conditions including iterative and personalized planning, intervention and reporting capability”; and
US 8073707 entitled “System for detecting, monitoring, and reporting an individual’s physiological or contextual status”.

With the dust settling on the various patent lawsuits filed in recent years between many technology companies in the mobile space, the wearable technology industry could be the next frontline for patent disputes. Focused wearable device companies such as Fitbit and Jawbone have already shown their emphasis on obtaining patent protection, both organically and via acquisitions. Larger technology companies are also innovating in the space, with Apple, Google, Sony, Samsung, and Qualcomm all having patents related to wearable technology.

Perhaps history will not repeat itself in the courts, especially in a post-Alice Corp. and AIA environment where the risk of patent invalidity has been heightened. If so, the possibility of cross-licensing and consolidation among wearable device players may likely be a focus, rather than aggressive litigation. That being said, the current lawsuit filed by Jawbone could possibly set the tone for the industry with regards to patent enforcement. It will be interesting to see how Fitbit, with its own impressive arsenal of patents, reacts to the lawsuit, and if it files counter claims against Jawbone for infringement as well.

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