With fitness technology devices becoming a rapidly exploding category, companies are competing for consumer attention in an increasingly saturated market. More than 300 million body sensors are expected to be in use by 2016, and each fitness tech company is eager to win over consumer attention and loyalty to their products.
Fitbug, a company that has been producing what they term "health coaching devices" since 2005, filed a lawsuit on Friday against competitor Fitbit alleging that the company has engaged in trademark infringement as well as unfair competition and business practices. Fitbug has asked the U.S. District Court in Northern California to order Fitbit to permanently cease the use of the Fitbit mark, and prohibit the company from engaging in conduct that would continue to cause confusion between the two brands and services.
Fitbug is alleging that the Fitbit trademark infringes upon Fitbug's rights and causes confusion among customers and that Fitbit's unfair business practices have cause irreparable harm and damage to the Fitbug brand. Fitbug, known for devices such as the Fitbug Air and the Fitbug Orb, has been making fit tech devices since 2005; Fitbit, founded in 2007, is known for the Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip.
Fitbug's lawsuit states that Fitbit began distributing nearly identical fitness-related portable electronic devices and online services four years after Fitbug began U.S. operations and three years after Fitbug obtained its first U.S. registration. Fitbug claims it was one of the first companies to combine portable electronic devices, nutrition advice, digital coaching and the Internet to help users lose weight, track calories, and be generally more active. Both companies specialize in fit tech "appcessories," which center on an activity tracking device and complementary app or web services.
Fitbug claims in the last 12 months they've had numerous customer service calls and emails about Fitbit devices by consumers who were confused about the difference between the two companies. They also claim that multiple media publications and social media sites have confused products from the two companies--and that even potential business partners have been unable to keep the two companies separate. (Which, hey, we can sympathize with--do you have any idea how many times a relative has asked me how it's going writing for PC Magazine?)
The complaint also maintains that Fitbit consistently uses a logo, icons, photographs, and imagery that is similar or identical to Fitbug's and that many of the images placed on user manuals and packaging is infringing. Furthermore, Fitbug says that the Fitbit name, which differs in only two letters, and logo (both include blue dots over the 'I' and similar fonts) is hurting business. Fitbit has yet to respond to the allegations; it is unknown how this may impact devices in development or currently on the market.