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Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Cool, confident and healthy

Cool cat
If you would believe the marketing, wearers of the Jawbone wearable technology are cool, confident and healthy.  As a devout wearer of such a bracelet, I wholeheartedly agree disagree. The bracelet tracks my every move, allowing me to measure sleep and activity.  It has been depressing to realise just how lazy a lazy Sunday can be.

However, all is not cool and confident in the land of wearable technology.  IP suits are on the horizon as noted by the AmeriKat.  At the beginning of June, Jawbone filed suits alleging theft of trade secrets and patent infringement. It’s the old fashioned story where one competitor hires former employees from the other.  Jawbone alleges Fitbit targeted 30% of their workforce and hired away 5 employees with the aim of gaining Jawbone corporate insights.  Enter trade secret theft.  In a second lawsuit, Jawbone is alleging infringement of patents.

The competition for market share is fierce at the moment.  Like MP3 players and mobile phones, it is highly likely that a number of the also-rans will fall by the wayside as the market develops.  Could patent suits be a revenue and market share strategy for the future of these bands?

Maulin Shah at PatentVue posted an interesting analysis of both parties’ strategies.  By their count, Jawbone holds 78 utility patents and 78 design patents compared to Fitbit’s 89 utility patents and 11 design patents.  Jawbone’s patents lean towards hardware and design, whereas Fitbit’s patents are more focused on hardware and software.

However, there is still concern as to the business models of these companies.  Jawbone, which also makes speakers, has yet to turn a profit.  A possibility is that the data, which economists adore, could become a source of revenue.  Fancy a career as an information broker?

The selling of information to advertisers and other firms is a core part of the Facebook and Google business models.  You can imagine that my detailed sleep and exercise habits might be interesting for sleep aid and footwear companies.  (Or perhaps no one is really interested in knowing precisely when my neighbour’s impromptu party woke me up.)

But importantly, who owns that information? Big data has yet to address a number of key privacy and IP concerns.  Is wearable technology less about providing users with information (the data driven life) or more about providing firms with information?

Yet it turns out that commentators on wearable technology patent strategies are just as active as users. I’ve had to re-write this post twice thrice.

5,834 steps and counting…

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Surely the real competition now is not between Fitbit and Jawbone, whose market share is small, but between Fitbit and the Chinese: one in four products sold are now made by Xiaomi, at about a quarter of the price of the Fitbit products. However, Fitbit still has the street-cred that goes with being the leading brand. You might say it's a bit like Apple's advantage over cheap-range tablets, smartphones etc.

Thanks for the Patentvue link. There's also a good piece on the Aistemos blog at http://aistemos.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/fitbit-wearable-profits-bearable.html, referencing Bloomberg, and a Chipworks blog post on the Fitbit v Jawbone patent litigation at https://www.chipworks.com/about-chipworks/overview/blog/assessing-the-patents-the-jawbone-vs-fitbit-lawsuit

Anonymous said...

For one exciting minute I thought "IP suits" might be the latest offering in wearable technology and was about to phone my tailor. On re-reading, sadly not...

Meldrew said...

According to one app, I do much less exercise when I'm not carrying my smartphone.

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