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Judge invalidates Fitbit patents in suit against Jawbone

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When will it ever end

Three months after Fitbit scored a victory in a trade ruling against Jawbone, the tables have turned: now a judge from the US International Trade Commission has ruled that three patents Fitbit was using in a separate case against Jawbone are invalid. The judge has canceled a pending trial between the two companies.

The news of the ruling and canceled trial, which was supposed to take place August 8th, was first reported by Bloomberg.

As Bloomberg reports, the three Fitbit patents in question are related to portable tracking devices, heart rate monitoring systems, and motion detection technology. These have been determined to be abstract ideas that can't be patent-protected.

In a statement about the ruling, Jawbone alleged that this particular case was "brought improperly by Fitbit in an attempt to burden Jawbone with having to defend invalid patents in multiple venues." In other words: Jawbone believes Fitbit is trying to bleed it dry.

Fitbit says it has a "strong legal basis" to ask the full Commission to reverse the ruling

A Fitbit spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to The Verge that Fitbit plans ask the ITC to reverse the ruling. "Since its inception, Fitbit has more than 300 issued patents and patent applications in this area. While we are disappointed in the administrative law judge's decision, we believe we have a strong legal basis to ask the full Commission to reverse it. Fitbit will continue to assert its IP against Jawbone as appropriate to protect the innovations central to our product offerings," the statement read.

Fitbit has until August 1st to ask the Commission to review the decision.

Aside from this case, there are three other actions by Jawbone still in process, including a trade secret suit that alleged Fitbit poached Jawbone employees who had downloaded confidential information before leaving Jawbone. That suit, which was filed in May 2015, is still being examined.

Long, drawn-out IP lawsuits and appeals are not uncommon in Silicon Valley, but this one highlights the very different trajectories of two competing tech companies. Fitbit is currently the market leader in fitness tracking devices, claiming more than 70 percent of market share in the US and nearly 25 percent of global market share as of the first quarter of this year.

Jawbone's units sales and market share aren't known, but it has fallen behind other manufacturers like Fitbit, Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, and Garmin. Recently it was reported that Jawbone was in the process of selling its audio business, and another report suggested the company had also stopped producing wearable tech. As The Verge reported then, the company still has another technology product it has been working on, but we have yet to see the product.