The wearable technologies market is expected to spike to 485 million annual device shipments by 2018, according to an ABI Research study published in February 2013. With consumers being introduced to such a proliferation of wearable consumer devices, it’s no surprise that trademark issues are likely to crop up among competitors.
Illustrating this point is the currently pending suit in the North District of California between Fitbug Limited and Fitbit, Inc. Fitbug is a London-based company that offers online health, fitness, and sleep products and services, and initially launched in 2005. Fitbit is a San Francisco based company that was founded in 2007, and offers wearable devices and services that track fitness and sleep-related personal metrics. In March 2013, Fitbug filed a complaint against Fitbit, alleging trademark infringement, and unfair competition and unfair business practices claims.
Fitbug first began using the trademark FITBUG in the United States in 2005, and owns two trademark registrations for its trademark, which cover its fitness devices, software, and related services. The lawsuit alleges that Fitbit began distributing its fitness-related electronic wearable devices and online services four years after Fitbug began operating in the United States and three years after Fitbug first registered its FITBUG trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The complaint further alleges that Fitbit’s use of its FITBIT mark on identical goods and services have created a false association with Fitbug and have caused confusion in the marketplace.
Fitbug points to evidence of actual confusion in the form of: customer service calls and emails received by Fitbug from customers seeking assistance with their Fitbit devices; news outlets and social media sites that appear to confuse the respective products in their reports; and prospective Fitbit business partners mistakenly communicating with Fitbug.
The complaint also references Fitbit’s use of a logo, icons, images, imagery, and diagrams as being confusingly similar to Fitbug’s original logo, icons, images, imagery, and diagrams.
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The parties’ respective logos are shown above.
On May 31, 2013, Fitbit answered the complaint and filed a counterclaim for declaratory relief of non-infringing use, no unfair competition, and of continuing registration of the FITBIT trademark. As of December 2013, a jury trial is set for February 9, 2015 with Hon. Samuel Conti presiding.
With the substantial growth in the wearable electronics industry, this case demonstrates the way in which established companies may seek to go after newer, yet more successful startups that that pose a competitive threat.