United States: Patent Disputes Over Wearables May Herald Broader Patent Litigation Regarding The Internet Of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to a network of physical objects containing sensors or actuators along with electronics for network connections and data communications. The IoT will impact many aspects of daily life, including the home, the workplace, transportation, healthcare, and health/fitness/wellness. For instance, IoT-equipped homes—smarthomes—will allow owners to remotely monitor and control lighting, heating, cooling, appliances, and security systems. Sensors and actuators may automatically turn lights on and off as someone moves from room to room and automatically adjust brightness depending on the preferences of a room occupant. A heating or cooling system may switch on to prepare for an arrival time calculated and sent by a smartphone. Moreover, smartcars could communicate and coordinate with each other to optimize traffic flow. Last year, McKinsey projected that the IoT will have a potential economic impact in 2025 between about $4 trillion and $11 trillion.

The IoT includes wearable devices or wearables, such as smartwatches, fitness and activity trackers, eyewear, and hearables (ear-worn devices) as well as augmented-reality and virtual-reality headsets. Among other things, wearables can measure various physical parameters, such as heart rate and blood pressure, and monitor various activities, such as exercise and sleep. One market-research firm estimated that sales of wearables in 2020 will exceed 400 million units and $34 billion.

Patents relating to wearables can cover device and sensor hardware, network connectivity and communications protocols, data security and encryption, power management, data analytics, and user applications. Another market-research firm reported that between 2010 and mid 2015 more than 40,000 patents on wearable electronics have been published and that related patent filings have increased by about 40% per year.

The smartphone patent wars that started in 2009 when Nokia sued Apple have largely ended. Apple's 2011 lawsuit against Samsung continues. The Supreme Court in mid March 2016 agreed to consider a question presented by Samsung concerning damages for design-patent infringement. The next day, the district court indefinitely postponed a retrial on damages scheduled to begin in late March because the question now at the Supreme Court plays a pivotal role in the retrial. Other than that 2011 case, however, lawsuits between competing manufacturers have been resolved.

But patent battles over wearables have started. For instance, in February 2014, Adidas sued Under Armour for infringing several patents relating to fitness training and tracking devices. According to Adidas, the asserted patents generally concern systems and methods that propose fitness routes to users (e.g., jogging routes), track a user's performance and location remotely and in real time, correlate and display performance information, and permit users to share information about their fitness activities. The district court has scheduled a trial for June 2016.

After Adidas started the ball rolling, AliphCom (doing business as Jawbone) and Fitbit attacked each other. In May 2015, AliphCom sued Fitbit and five former AliphCom employees in California state court alleging, among other things, trade-secret misappropriation and unfair competition. AliphCom contended that Fitbit recruiters contacted about 30% of AliphCom's employees and induced five to join Fitbit and that those employees took confidential and proprietary information with them to Fitbit.

In June 2015, about two weeks after filing in California state court, AliphCom and its subsidiary BodyMedia sued Fitbit in California federal court alleging infringement of three patents. And in July 2015, AliphCom and BodyMedia filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission alleging infringement of the same three patents asserted in California federal court as well as three additional patents. In the ITC proceeding, AliphCom and BodyMedia also alleged trade-secret misappropriation.

According to AliphCom and BodyMedia, all six patents asserted against Fitbit relate to wearable fitness and activity trackers used for monitoring and reporting on health and wellness metrics. For instance, one of the patents concerns trackers with sensors for detecting certain user data and generating health and wellness recommendations based on a target score derived from the sensed data, while another patent concerns power-consumption management for trackers.

Fitbit responded with its own series of lawsuits. In September 2015, Fitbit sued AliphCom and BodyMedia in Delaware federal court alleging infringement of three patents. Five days later, Fitbit sued AliphCom and BodyMedia in California federal court alleging infringement of three different patents. Then, in October 2015, Fitbit filed a complaint with the ITC alleging that AliphCom and BodyMedia infringe three additional patents.

 
So Fitbit has asserted nine patents against AliphCom and BodyMedia in three different proceedings. In the California case, the asserted patents concern the wireless pairing of a tracker to another device, such as a smartphone or tablet computer. After pairing, the devices communicate with little or no user interaction, for example, to transfer sensor data collected by the tracker. In the Delaware case, which was transferred to California in December 2015, the asserted patents generally relate to wearable fitness and activity trackers, such as trackers having heart-rate monitors and methods for notifying a user that he or she has met a predetermined goal, such as walking a certain number of steps. In the ITC proceeding that Fitbit initiated, the patents also relate to wearable fitness and activity trackers, including trackers that calculate activity points based on the amount of a user's physical activity and display the results to the user.

In the California federal case filed by Fitbit, AliphCom and BodyMedia responded by contending that Fitbit asserted frivolous patent claims against them. In addition, they asserted an antitrust counterclaim against Fitbit for unlawful monopolization of the market for personal fitness trackers.

In their respective lawsuits, the parties have requested several forms of relief. In the California state case filed by AliphCom, it seeks compensatory damages, punitive and exemplary damages, and an injunction preventing disclosure and use of trade secrets. In the federal patent cases, the respective patent owners seek compensatory damages and an injunction prohibiting further infringement of the asserted patents. In the ITC proceedings, the patent owners seek (1) an exclusion order preventing its competitor from importing infringing products and (2) a cease-and-desist order preventing its competitor from selling infringing products already imported. And in their antitrust counterclaim, AliphCom and BodyMedia requested treble damages due to Fitbit's allegedly anticompetitive conduct.

It may take courts some time to resolve the issues in the pending lawsuits over fitness and activity trackers. The smartphone patent wars may provide guidance concerning timing. As noted above, Apple's 2011 lawsuit against Samsung continues with no clear end in sight. But other manufacturer-versus-manufacturer suits ended in less time, depending on whether the parties settled or proceeded to trial.

The pending lawsuits over fitness and activity trackers presage wider patent disputes over IoT technologies as they mature and more products become available to consumers. There are relatively few competitors in the smartphone market. In contrast, several companies sell fitness and activity trackers, including Adidas, Basis, Garmin, Mio, Microsoft, Misfit, Moov, Nike, Polar, Samsung, Sony, TomTom, Under Armour, and Xiaomi. Moreover, those trackers constitute a fraction of wearables and a much smaller fraction of the IoT.

Companies continue to develop IoT patent arsenals in an intellectual-property arms race. Just as patent battles have erupted over fitness and activity trackers, patent owners in other IoT sectors will no doubt employ their patents in efforts vanquish competitors and fight for market share.

Various commentators have discussed lessens learned from the smartphone patent wars. Hopefully, IoT litigants will not need to relearn those lessens during or after costly and lengthy patent litigation.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions