Six former employees of defunct wearable manufacturer Jawbone are accused of stealing trade secrets from that company and delivering them to rival Fitbit.
The indictment, filed June 14 in Northern California federal court, said that all six employees worked for Jawbone at various times, but then quit and went to work for main competitor Fitbit. Among the trade secrets the various employees are alleged to have delivered to their new employer, in violation of signed confidentiality agreements: design documents, internal emails, and 3D renderings.
The case seems to spring from a long-running legal battle. In May 2015, Jawbone sued Fitbit for “systematically plundering its employees,” trade secrets, and intellectual property. Fitbit denied the charges, and a judge ruled in Fitbit’s favor in August 2016. But the skirmish continued, and the two sides eventually came to a settlement last December. By that point, Jawbone had already gone out of business.
The six California residents charged are Katherine Mogal of San Francisco; Ana Rosario of Pacifica; Patrick Narron of Boulder Creek; Patricio Romano of Calabasas; Rong Zhang of El Cerrito; and Jing Qi Weiden of San Jose. They are each charged with one or more counts of possessing stolen trade secrets.
“Intellectual property is the heart of innovation and economic development in Silicon Valley,” said acting U.S. Attorney Alex Tse in a statement. “The theft of trade secrets violates federal law, stifles innovation, and injures the rightful owners of that intellectual property.”
Former Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman told TechCrunch in a statement that the U.S Attorney’s action “validates the claims we made in our 2015 lawsuit against Fitbit.”
However, Fitbit told the same publication: “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.”
The defendants could not be reached for comment.
(Image courtesy of Jawbone)