back to article Outfit throws fit, hits FitBit's hit kit with writ (Apple also involved)

A US research lab specializing in wearable devices says Apple and FitBit are ripping off its inventions without paying a dime in royalties. A pair of lawsuits [PDFs] filed by Valencell in the Eastern District Court of North Carolina on Monday allege that both companies' wearable bands violate four of its granted patents for …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A ploy by Outfit

    To get bought out by Apple who can then sue Fitbit for rounded corners

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: A ploy by Outfit

      Is going around the wrist close enough for an Apple suit?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: A ploy by Outfit

        "Is going around the wrist close enough for an Apple suit?"

        Aren't they more into jeans and black polo necks there?

  2. depicus

    Having read the last patent it just solidifies my thinking that patents are handed out like sweets at a kids party, with little regard to the scope and prior art.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Indeed. Pulse oximeters, probably incorporating light guides, have been around for a long time, as have integrated circuit motion detectors. Both have been in widespread use since well before February, 2009. Integrating them using a computer and software seems like something a programmer skilled in dealing with sensors would do with little inspiration based on a goal of, for example, calculating calories expended over time. It is quite plausible that Apple and Fitbit declined to pay royalties on these patents because their legal departments, after examining them, declared them rubbish.

      1. Youngone Silver badge

        I'm sure the patents in question are rubbish, but the fact they're not suing in east Texas might mean they're actually good.

        Of course North Carolina could just be copying East Texas' business model.

  3. DougS Silver badge

    Always the same argument

    "We show access from company X's IP addresses to information on our website, so obviously they were copying our technology!" Surely anyone deliberately stealing their technology would be smart enough to use some VPN service, TOR, or access it from home...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Always the same argument

      In my experience, companies like Apple, MS and IBM are so large that they just don't give a sh*t about getting caught - they see it as a business risk which they are happy to do if the expected profits are high enough.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Always the same argument

        In my experience, companies like Apple, MS and IBM are so large that they just don't give a sh*t about getting caught - they see it as a business risk which they are happy to do if the expected profits are high enough.

        Not a US exclusive. PSION in the UK was quite happy to take in ideas without as much as acknowledging them, greeting protests with "go ahead, sue us", and that was quite a few years ago.

    2. imaginarynumber

      Re: Always the same argument

      Company X may well have looked at the research papers, thought "oh that's clever, how we we do the same thing in a slightly different way?".

      IF company X believes that it has acted legally then it would have no incentive to cover its tracks

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Always the same argument

        Company X may well have looked at the research papers, thought "oh that's clever, how we we do the same thing in a slightly different way?".

        Because reading research papers and making things in different ways is verboten in the "EVERYTHING BELONGS TO ME! MEEE!!" world of modern "business".

        The whole house of cards of savage mendacity must come down. It just must.

  4. <shakes head>

    and award for openess

    "a band capable of encircling a portion of the body of a subject"

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: and award for openess

      I other news, the 'Leather Belt Manufacturers Association' is taking leg action against this company becuse they have clear prior art in this area.

      someone should really take out a patent on 'Device to netutalise the stupidity of the USPTO' which turns out to be a bomb which gets detonated the day the patens is granted.

      Yes I am joking but frankly the all encompassing works in some patents means that pretty well eveyone readint this site is in violation of at least 20 patents just for getting out of bed in the morning.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Ru'

          Re: and award for openess

          "No, you are not, unless you are seeking to profit from getting out of bed in the morning."

          Most week days this is my intention, otherwise I would stay in bed...

        2. JetSetJim Silver badge

          Re: and award for openess

          > You can copy a patent for your personal use so long as you do not sell it.

          Not sure that's entirely correct:

          Making one unauthorized patented product for personal use could constitute patent infringement

          http://ocpatentlawyer.com/3-basic-concepts-of-patent-infringement/

          1. John Bailey

            Re: and award for openess

            Depends on country.

            UK patent law I believe allows a patent to be "infringed" for personal non commercial use. Because really.. nobody cares.

            US patent law tends to be more..

            It LOOOOOOKED.. IT LOOKED at the PRECIOUSSSSSSSS.. gollum gollum.. . nasty hobbitses.. looking at the precious.

            1. JetSetJim Silver badge

              Re: and award for openess

              A good explanation of UK exceptions here:

              http://www.inbrief.co.uk/intellectual-property/defences-to-patent-infringement.htm

              "Private Use – If the infringing act is done in private and for non-commercial purposes there is no infringement."

              So yes, it would seem some personal use is allowed in the UK.

              1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

                Re: and award for openess

                but according to the US Government, US law applies everywhere on the planet.

                See you in gitmo then...

      2. Graham Marsden
        Devil

        @Steve Davis 3 - Re: and award for openess

        > pretty well eveyone readint this site is in violation of at least 20 patents just for getting out of bed in the morning

        And if they stay *in* bed then they are in violation of my patent for the utilisation of a device constructed of woven fabric intended to maintain a comfortable body temperature...

    2. BongoJoe

      Re: and award for openess

      Apple handcuffs?

      Apple wedding rings*?

      Apple slave shackles?

      Apple Anne Summers' Dungeon collection?

      (* not as ridiculous as it may seem given that the other week in a Radnorshire churchyard I saw a gravestone with the 'Animal' branding.**)

      (** slightly less tacky, but not by much, than the infamous 'Kiss Kasket')

    3. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: and award for openess

      Sounds a bit like "rectangular shape with rounded corners."

      1. Darryl

        Re: and award for openess

        No, that would be a rectangular shape with hospital corners.

  5. David Lawrence

    Where is their product??

    So Apple has a product, and FitBit has several products. Where is Valencell's product?

    What? They never intended to actually MAKE a product? They just had a bunch of ideas and then sat back for others to release their products, so they could sue them (or as someone else has already suggested, they hoped they would be 'acquired' ) for mega bucks.

    Why not go after everyone who has produced a 'wearable band'? There are shedloads of them. Motorola? Asus? Withings?

    Hang them all as an example to all the other wannabe patent trolls, I say.

    1. Chris Evans

      Re: Where is their product??

      I quick look says that their business model is 'design and development' leaving manufacturing to licensees. Not that different from ARM!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where is their product??

      That's actually a ready good, and by that I mean serious, idea.

      Require patent holders to actually *use* their patents as more than just a blunt instrument to extort money from others.

      I think that's actually part of the rule for enforcing trade and service marks. If you don't use it, you lose it.

  6. Alistair Silver badge
    Windows

    Patents.

    Dear god why did I click on the patent links and read them.

    I'm re-writing tech specs this morning. I now need brain bleach to get that vaguely phrased patentese out of my head. Either that or the next folks in the path will spend 5 months trying to figure out where to plug in the network cables.

  7. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Well, not in any way condoning the "no working model supplied" patent grant process, but one should remember that the reason that some beam engines had elaborate geared couplings between the beam and the flywheel was the existence of a patent - on the crank.

    Yep, an English patent was granted for a device in common use on spinning wheels and potters wheels and lathes and Azathoth alone knows what else for decades.

    Stick that in yer "prior art" pipe and smoke it.

    Patents are demonstrably not doing the job for which they were invented, but pointing that out is now firmly in the field of Stating The Bleeding Obvious. What's needed is knowledgeable debate on how to fix things for the 21st century reality.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well done....

    ..you patented this from 2008

    http://m.eet.com/media/1107867/orsense.jpg

    http://www.embedded.com/print/4192292

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well done....

        > so not a US patent, hence fair game for the bellends at Patent Factory Outfit

        This is prior art and it doesn't matter where it was found. It's not a question of competing patents.

        Patents need to demonstrate something completely new to the art (or at least that's the theory) and the existence of a prior incarnation of what the patent describes some number of years previously is grounds for destruction of the patent.

  9. Florida1920
    Joke

    Outfit throws fit, hits FitBit's hit kit with writ

    (Apple also involved)

    Hope they don't choke on the pit.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple have been there....

    1985!

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Apple-II-Watch/

  11. John 104

    If Apple can sue Samsung, and win, for round corners, I say let them get sued for lifting patented technology, which they were obviously aware of.

    The patent system exists so that an individual can come up with an idea without having deep pockets to produce it, but not get dinged by some mega company with bully lawyers. There are and have been many people who have come up with ideas and sold them to companies. It is how it works, folks. And if a business makes its money buying ideas and licensing them, so what?

    Both Apple and FitBit have made millions (billions?) on someone else's idea. They need to pay, and they will likely settle out of court. Look for the article here in 6 months.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      I know it's difficult, but there is a difference between a utility patent and a design patent. If you don't know the difference, then you should educate yourself, or frankly, stop coming out with that kind of nonsense.

      Apple actually has a patent on rounded corners. Or more precisely, Bill Atkinson, responsible for QuickDraw in the early 80's, has a patent for efficently drawing graphics clipped to arbitrary areas, including areas with rounded corners. And it is a very clever patent, and nobody reading and understanding it will say that this wasn't highly deserving of getting a patent.

      But what you are talking about is a design patent. Apple doesn't have and never had a design patent on rounded corners. You cannot get a design patent on rounded corners. You can get a design patent on a design, consisting of several design features, of which one may be rounded corners. That's what Samsung did with their design patent for the Galaxy phone. Yes, just like Apple has design patents on iPhones and iPads designs which include among other things rounded corners, so does Samsung have design patents on Galaxy phone designs which include among other things rounded corners.

      I sincerely hope that you don't repeat that "rounded corner" nonsense again, because it really makes you look clueless.

  12. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    Dick Tracy ..

    didn't he have a smartish (2-way radio) watch ?

    Maybe the patent needs to go back further ?

  13. Joe Gurman

    Nice job on the headline

    You can audition for a job with Variety now.

  14. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    MORE of what Apple calls ...

    'Open Software'?

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