Fitbit succeeded in vanquishing its foe Jawbone when the latter shut down in July 2017. Now, Jawbone strikes back from beyond the grave. Federal prosecutors have secured an indictment against five former and one current Fitbit employees for illegally stealing trade secrets from Jawbone when they left the company for Fitbit.
Jawbone is currently in liquidation, but it alleged in court filings before its shutdown that Fitbit was the target of a criminal probe. Fitbit denied any wrongdoing at the time. The six individuals now accused of theft of Jawbone's secrets all face between six and one count of stealing trade secrets. Authorities say each of these people worked for Jawbone for at least a year between 2011 and 2015, and afterward, they worked at Fitbit.
These same Fitbit employees were at the heart of an International Trade Commission case brought by Jawbone in 2016 when it accused Fitbit of stealing its technology. The judge in that case ruled in favor of Fitbit, saying there was no evidence jawbone IP was stolen. For the government to file criminal charges, prosecutors must feel they have substantial evidence that wasn't available at the time. They might be making the case that Fitbit's alleged misappropriation of Jawbone tech contributed to the failure of the company.
The defendants are scheduled to go before a judge on July 9th. Fitbit has declined to comment on the proceedings or confirm which of the six still works at Fitbit.
Fitbit has provided the following statement, which doesn't offer much in the way of new information.
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.
- Ars Technica