Connected fitness giants Peloton and iFit are facing an import ban on their fitness equipment. The ban was announced today by the US International Trade Commission after a trade judge ruled that the two companies infringed on Dish’s streaming patents. While it’s hard to have connected fitness without streaming, this also isn’t Peloton or iFit’s first patent showdown.
Dish and its subsidiary Sling TV initially sued Peloton, iFit, and Lululemon in 2021. The four patents in question stem from Dish’s Hopper set-top box and relate to how the device adjusts the bitrate of a stream in real time to improve video quality. The ITC complaint was separately filed at the same time, seeking a ban on Peloton and iFit’s NordicTrack equipment, as well as Lululemon’s Mirror. However, Lululemon won’t be impacted as it settled with Dish in February, Reuters reports.
For its part, Peloton doesn’t appear to be perturbed by the ban. For one thing, it’s scaled back its fully outsourced manufacturing over the past year as part of restructuring efforts after overestimating demand following the pandemic. But more importantly, the company says it’s easy to avoid selling machines with the banned technology.
“There will be no impact on our members, current or future. We’ve already updated software on newly manufactured [products] and we’ll be deploying new streaming technology on existing [products],” says Ben Boyd, Peloton’s senior vice president of global communications. Boyd likened the process to how companies push periodic software updates featuring new technology on smartphones.
The Verge reached out to iFit but did not immediately receive a response.
Regardless, a ban won’t take effect immediately. President Joe Biden’s administration has 60 days to review the ban. It’s possible that Biden may decide to reverse the ITC’s decision, though presidents generally don’t intervene in these matters. Case in point, the Biden administration recently declined to veto a potential import ban on the Apple Watch over patent disputes relating to its EKG feature. After that review period ends, Peloton and iFit can choose to appeal the decision, which would further delay any ban.
Peloton’s Boyd also tells The Verge that the company doesn’t believe it infringed on Dish’s patents. He noted the company is exploring its options but declined to say whether Peloton would pursue an appeal. “Our focus without question is on member experience, and there will be absolutely no disruption to the member experience.”
This wouldn’t be the first time Peloton or iFit has been embroiled in patent wars over technology. Last year, Peloton and iFit actually settled their patent beef with each other relating to on-demand leaderboard features. Peloton also lost a patent dispute against rival Echelon over its streaming tech, with the US Patent and Trademark Office ruling Peloton’s tech was actually unpatentable. Peloton used to be a lot more litigious on this front, burying its competitors in patent-related paperwork. However, the company has since eased off that strategy since CEO Barry McCarthy took over.