Despite Fitbit and Jawbone reaching an agreement over a legal dispute regarding trade secrets back in December, US federal prosecutors have charged six former and current Fitbit employees in an indictment case.
The indictment relates to possession of stolen trade secrets, stating that six former Jawbone employees received knowledge after leaving the company, therefore violating signed confidentiality agreements.
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If you need a refresher on this seemingly never-ending legal battle, here's the skinny. Jawbone initially accused Fitbit of stealing its secrets back in 2015 when some of its employees jumped ship to Fitbit. Jawbone claimed that some of this technology manifested in the Fitbit Alta, and so it brought a case against Fitbit for stealing its technology and infringing its patents.
However, a judge ruled in Fitbit's favour, and the battle raged on over patents before a statement revealed in December seemed to indicate the spat was all over, reading: "The terms of the agreement will remain confidential and both sides look forward to putting these disputes behind them."
But, as we now know, it didn't end, and six employees have been charged with one or more counts of possession of trade secrets and could face up to 10 years in prison, if convicted.
Jawbone Health, a spinoff of the original company, told The Verge: "We believe the Justice Department's indictment of six current and former Fitbit Inc. employees for stealing trade secrets from their former employer, Jawbone, validates the claims we made in our 2015 lawsuit against Fitbit."
Meanwhile, a Fitbit spokersperson said: "In a trade secret misappropriation case brought by Jawbone in the International Trade Commission in 2016 that involved these same individuals, a federal administrative law judge during a nine-day trial on the merits found that no Jawbone trade secrets were misappropriated or used in any Fitbit product, feature or technology."
Extensive details are fairly scarce currently, but we expect more will emerge as the case develops. And with the employees charged not scheduled to make an initial court appearance until 9 July, we may all have to settle in for another lengthy Fitbit vs. Jawbone episode.
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