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Wendy Bumgardner

Defunct SportBrain Sues Fitbit and Nike+ FuelBand for Patent Infringement

By January 26, 2013

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Sportbrain pedometerI was excited to find SportBrain over a decade ago, it was one of the first pedometers that uploaded their data to a web site. I enjoyed the detail they provided of my walking step data. But as of 2011, their web site was no longer active, and without the web site, their pedometers weren't worth the price. The company has a broad patent on the concept of "Integrating personal data capturing functionality into a portable computing device and a wireless communication device," and they mean to make money by enforcing it against johnny-come-latelys, including suing for patent infringement.

They have filed suit and requested injunctions against Adidas America, Fitbit and Nike for the Nike+ FuelBand. Some label them now as a patent troll, a company that uses broad patents to make money from settlements from other companies. The patent SportBrain seeks to enforce was granted in 2008, many years after their pedometers debuted.

I have no knowledge of the legitimacy and motives behind the suits. But having listened to NPR and Planet Money podcasts on patent trolls, I think it could have a stifling influence on the development of innovative and useful activity monitor pedometers. While Nike may have the deep pockets to settle the suit, small innovative companies do not. We all lose when we stifle innovation and leave it only to the biggest corporations.

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