On Tuesday, February 7th, a series of six patent infringement suits were filed by Sportbrain Holdings LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (N.D. Ill.) against large companies from the worlds of consumer gadgets and personal wear. At the center of each lawsuit is the assertion of a single patent covering personal data collection technology integrated into a series of smartwatches.
Sportbrain’s lawsuits target consumer device giant Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) of Cupertino, CA; personal computing developer HP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ) of Palo Alto, CA; personal apparel manufacturer New Balance Athletics of Boston, MA; British branded fashion designer Michael Kors Holdings (NYSE:KORS); connected device developer Razer Inc. of Carlsbad, CA; and Los Angeles-based tech firm BLOCKS Wearables Inc.
The patent-in-suit asserted by Sportsbrain against each of these defendants is U.S. Patent No. 7,454,002, titled Integrating Personal Data Capturing Functionality into a Portable Computing Device and a Wireless Communication Device and issued to Sportbrain in November 2008. It claims a method for analyzing personal data and supplying feedback to a user by receiving personal data of a user corresponding to a number of steps counted during an activity, capturing that data in a wireless communication device, transmitting personal data to a network server, generating feedback information at the network server by analyzing the user’s step data against data from other users and posting the feedback information, which includes a comparison to data from other users, to a website accessible to the user. The invention improves upon the prior art by enabling physical fitness measuring devices to provide processed feedback in a way that better assists the user in a fitness activity while also being convenient for a user to access.
Each of the suits filed by Sportsbrain identifies a specific product and companion apps which work in tandem to collect personal data and provide feedback to wearers. Sportbrain’s suit against Apple identifies both the Apple Watch and iPhone product lines used in conjunction with watchOS3 and Apple apps. Sportbrain’s suit against HP identifies the Michael Bastian Chronowing smartwatch and Michael Bastian companion apps as the infringing products. In its suit against Michael Kors, Sportbrain is asserting the ‘002 patent against the Access smartwatch and Michael Kors companion apps. In its suit against New Balance, Sportbrain is targeting the New Balance RunIQ watch and New Balance companion apps. Sportbrain’s suit against BLOCKS Wearables identifies BLOCKS watches and companion apps. Finally, Sportbrain’s suit against Razer identifies the Nabu Watch and Razer companion apps.
Sportbrain’s suits also identify specific components included in the products that enable the alleged infringement of the ‘002 patent. Sportbrain’s Apple suit identifies the accelerometer and motion sensor components of the Apple Watch and iPhone products. Sportbrain’s suit against HP identifies components of the Michael Bastian watch including an accelerometer as well as a pedometer and/or gyroscope. In the Razer suit, Sportbrain identifies at least a pedometer and/or a calorie counter used by the Nabu Watch. In addition, each suit identifies wireless communication components which enable the transmission of personal data collected by sensor components to a network server, where the data is then processed for generating feedback.
Sportbrain is seeking judgements declaring that each company infringed upon claims covered by the ‘002 patent and for damages adequate to compensate for the infringements. The firm also seeks an award of reasonable attorney fees under U.S.C. 35 Section 285. In each suit except for the one filed against New Balance, Sportbrain is also seeking a judgement of willful infringement of the ‘002 patent, a decision which would treble any reasonable damages awarded to Sportbrain in any of those cases. In the complaints it filed, Sportbrain argues that Apple, HP, BLOCKS, Michael Kors and Razer each committed infringement that was “willful, deliberate, and in reckless disregard of Sportbrain’s patent rights” on the basis that those defendants utilized Sportbrain’s technology in the accused products and services.
Sportbrain’s efforts to monetize its smartwatch patent comes at a point in time when the smartwatch market seems to be losing a good deal of steam. A news release posted last October by the International Data Corporation indicated that a total of 2.7 million smartwatch units were shipped during 2016’s third quarter, a 51.6 percent decline in the number of units shipped during 2015’s third quarter.