US federal prosecutors charged six former and current Fitbit employees in an indictment filed yesterday for possession of stolen trade secrets from the company’s former rival Jawbone, as reported by The Associated Press. The indictment states that the six employees were former Jawbone employees who received the trade secrets after leaving the company, violating confidentiality agreements they had signed with Jawbone.
The Fitbit and Jawbone drama began back in 2015, and it seemed to be over before yesterday’s indictment. Former wearables maker Jawbone initially sued Fitbit for “systematically plundering” trade secrets, including over 300,000 confidential files, but a judge ruled in Fitbit’s favor. Although the case continued over patent infringements, the two reached a settlement in December. By then, Jawbone and its parent company, AliphCom, had already gone out of business.
Fitbit’s statement to The Verge indicates that the 2015 lawsuit involved the same six people:
“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.”
Jawbone Health, a spinoff of the original company, said in a statement to The Verge: “We believe the Justice Department’s indictment of six current and former Fitbit Inc. employees for stealing trade secrets from their former employer, Jawbone, validates the claims we made in our 2015 lawsuit against Fitbit.”
The six employees could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Update, June 15th 2:33PM ET: This article has been updated to include a statement from Jawbone Health.