Wearable tech has been a fairly recent trend, unless you want to count the calculator watch. And preeminent in that trend has been Fitbit, which offers devices that monitor your activity and your health, should you actually want to know about such things. To those of us less technically-inclined, it seems like magic that a small device can determine our daily steps and our heart-rate and any number of other data points by just sitting on our wrists, but indeed there is substantive technology behind the magic, although if a recent complaint is to be believed, it's not tech that Fitbit has a legal basis for using.
Fitbit and Garmin are under fire from the US International Trade Commission (USITC) for allegedly infringing upon a competitor's patents surrounding wearable health monitoring devices, according to The Verge. The USITC is investigating whether the two companies as well as two others based in China have violated patents owned by Phillips for various aspects of the technology that we associate with the monitoring devices of the day, including motion tracking and alarm monitoring.
As you might expect, Fitbit denies and wrongdoing or misappropriation of IP in the case. (We're still waiting for the day when a company comes forth with a statement saying, "Oh that infringement? Seems like they've got a pretty good case because we definitely did what they're accusing us of.") Phillips says that they had been trying to negotiate a licensing agreement for years with the two companies before talks ultimately broke down, ultimately leading to the Dutch firm to take its grievance to the authorities.
If the case seems unremarkable, it's probably because it's the type of thing that we've come to take as a run-of-the-mill occurrence, when we should probably take a step back to appreciate the magnitude of not only this but all of the cases we see that can seem quotidian in their regularity. Here we have a company that has a huge part of the market for the health monitors so many of us wear on our wrists, and it's been alleged by a big multinational electronics concern that some of the tech involved is in fact their property and thus being misused by this new upstart. Perhaps we've come to expect that there's some malfeasance undergirding every success story, or maybe it's hard to get too invested in battles between wealthy corporations, but it shouldn't be lost to us that many of the items in our lives owe some small part of their existence to borrowed or stolen IP.