Fitbit employees ordered by court to turn over alleged Jawbone secrets

By Jonah Comstock
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Updated with statement from Fitbit 

A California judge has ordered, in a preliminary injunction, that the five Fitbit employees accused of stealing trade secrets must return any Jawbone information in their possession to Jawbone and prove they've deleted any copies, according to a Law360 report.

A preliminary injunction doesn't guarantee that the court will ultimately rule in Jawbone's favor, but it's not a good sign for Fitbit either. It's used in cases where the plaintiff can show a substantial likelihood of success, and can also show that there's a need for timely action to prevent further harm.

In a statement, Fitbit said the injunction doesn't harm their case as a company.

"We are pleased with the outcome of today’s court hearing," the company said in a statement. "This was not a motion against Fitbit. The hearing was focused on the exchange of information between Jawbone and its former employees and has no impact on Fitbit. In fact, the Court’s rulings at the hearing embraced the approach proposed by counsel for these individuals.”

Jawbone sued Fitbit in May alleging that five former employees took confidential information about the company's future plans with them when they left jobs at Jawbone to work at Fitbit. The employees named in the suit include Katherine Mogal, head of UX research at Fitbit and former Director of Market and Customer Experience Insights at Jawbone; Patrick Narron, an audio engineer; Patricio Romano, a senior mechanical engineer at Fitbit; Ana Rosario, who served as a senior user experience researcher at both companies; Rong Zhang, a senior cost accounting manager at Fitbit and former senior supply chain manager at Jawbone. Each of them allegedly downloaded confidential information on a USB flash drive, downloaded it directly to a personal computer, or emailed it to a personal account.

In a statement at the time, Fitbit responded: “As the pioneer and leader in the connected health and fitness market, Fitbit has no need to take information from Jawbone or any other company,” the statement says. “Since Fitbit’s start in 2007, our employees have developed and delivered innovative product offerings to empower our customers to lead healthier, more active lives. We are unaware of any confidential or proprietary information of Jawbone in our possession and we intend to vigorously defend against these allegations.”

This is one of several ongoing lawsuits between Fitbit and Jawbone. In June Jawbone sued Fitbit over alleged infringement of three patents Jawbone obtained when it purchased BodyMedia in 2013. Then in September, Fitbit sued Jawbone over alleged infringement of three patents of its own. Jawbone even filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission in an effort to get the ITC to block Fitbit’s imports into the US, based on the same complaints that form the basis of its two recent lawsuits against Fitbit.

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