INDICTMENT OF EX-FITBIT EMPLOYEES MARKS A BIGGER LEGAL SHIFT
DAVE KOTINSKY/GETTY IMAGES
LAST WEEK, A federal grand jury returned a criminal indictment against six current and former Fitbit employees who allegedly stole trade secrets from Jawbone, where they had all previously worked. Jawbone and Fitbit, both makers of consumer-grade activity trackers, have a long and bitter legal history. But after the International Trade Commission cleared Fitbit of Jawbone’s trade secret claims in 2016, and after Jawbone went out of business in 2017, many thought the legal battles were over.
Not so much. These charges—which are against the individuals, and not Fitbit as a company—bring fresh scrutiny to the trade secret claims. The indictment suggests that “there’s some serious nature of this case that rises above your garden variety case,” says Peter Toren, a Washington, D.C.-based intellectual property attorney who is not involved in the case. “It’s likely somebody referred this case to the US Attorney’s office for investigation, and they considered it serious enough to make a criminal matter out of it.”
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