Jawbone sues Fitbit for 'systematically plundering' confidential data

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2015
Jawbone is suing rival fitness tracker maker Fitbit, accusing the latter of "systematically plundering" corporate secrets by hiring Jawbone workers who smuggled sensitive data before exiting the company.

Jawbone's Up3.
Jawbone's Up3.


The case was filed Wednesday in the California State Court in San Francisco, according to the New York Times. In the complaint, Fitbit recruiters are alleged to have contact almost a third of Jawbone staff early in 2015. Some of the people who left are claimed to have used USB thumb drives to save data about Jawbone's current and future plans, and then deleted system logs and/or used apps to cover their tracks.

A given example is Ana Rosario, who Jawbone said Fitbit hired as a user experience researcher on April 16. The complaint states that Rosario didn't announce her intention to leave Jawbone until April 22, and that on April 20, she attended a meeting with the firm's senior director of product management to discuss future plans and downloaded a "playbook" of future Jawbone products.

In an exit interview Rosario initially denied taking confidential data but later admitted to having a copy of a "Market Trends & Opportunities" presentation.

In another example, audio specialist Patrick Narron was said to have given his two-week notice on April 8 saying we has leaving for another job, but without mentioning it was Fitbit. Narron purportedly emailed himself confidential data several times.

On April 17, Fitbit's chief people officer called Jawbone and acknowledged poaching without mentioning any data theft. In statements made to the Times, Fitbit denied any wrongdoing and promised to "vigorously" defend itself. Jawbone is asking the court for financial compensation and measures to prevent its ex-employees from using the stolen data.

Fitbit is on the verge of an initial public stock offering, which the Jawbone lawsuit could potentially harm. Jawbone has meanwhile been having problems of its own, including production issues which delayed the launch of its Up3 fitness band. It has also yet to turn a profit, although it did recently raise $300 million in funding.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15

    If true, then Fitbit is indeed a dirty company.

  • Reply 2 of 15
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,005member
    Well Jawbone would have to show Fitbit was aware of these employees intentions to take Jawbone's data and bring it to Fitbit.

    Obviously you can not stop someone from bringing what they have in their heads, but Jawbone has a bigger issue with the employess then with Fitbit. Most likely this will end with the employee being fired and Fitbit paying legal fees. The other question would be what the exit interview consisted of and was the employee told about which information they had in their position even in their head was considered Jawbone company confidential.

    Unless Jawbone can show Fitbit was aware of the data thieft and allowed it to be used at the company they will have a difficult fight, but this will defenitely put an end to the poaching for a while.
  • Reply 3 of 15
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,454member

    All tech companies do this, including Apple.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post



    Obviously you can not stop something to bringing what they have in their heads, but Jawbone has a bigger issue with the employess then with Fitbit. 

     

    Exactly. All tech companies do this, including Apple. They lure away competent professionals for what is in their heads, not necessarily trade secrets, but experience they gained while working for others. That is invaluable information. If an executive happens to know trade secrets, its on the employee not to disclose that information. Of course, that information informs the employee with respect to their work at another company,  it's impossible for it not to.

  • Reply 4 of 15
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,603member
    mac_128 wrote: »
    All tech companies do this, including Apple.

    Exactly. All tech companies do this, including Apple. They lure away competent professionals for what is in their heads, not necessarily trade secrets, but experience they gained while working for others. That is invaluable information. If an executive happens to know trade secrets, its on the employee not to disclose that information. Of course, that information informs the employee with respect to their work at another company,  it's impossible for it not to.

    The difference here is that employees were emailing company info to themselves. Not necessarily an issue for fitbit but the employee will soon see themselves in court.

    We have had to present similar employee activity for clients in the UK when staff have left and sent client lists etc to themselves to take to their new employer. It really doesn't end well for the employee.
  • Reply 5 of 15
    longtermlongterm Posts: 80member
    The statement "All tech companies do this, including Apple" is absurd.

    First, the statement has no basis in fact;

    Second, the issue here is twofold: a) the employees in question were no doubt under legal agreements NOT to disseminate proprietary information, so they can (and probably will) be prosecuted; b) whether Fitbit knew about this activity will have be be proved; c) the very fact that it occurred with more than one employee lends credence to Jawbone's lawsuit.

    Third, to make the blanket declaration that "everybody does it" reminds me of high school. There is no proof that "all tech companies do this," and I seriously doubt that this type of blatant theft happens in more than a few sleazier companies.
  • Reply 6 of 15
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by longterm View Post



    The statement "All tech companies do this, including Apple" is absurd.



    First, the statement has no basis in fact;



    Second, the issue here is twofold: a) the employees in question were no doubt under legal agreements NOT to disseminate proprietary information, so they can (and probably will) be prosecuted; b) whether Fitbit knew about this activity will have be be proved; c) the very fact that it occurred with more than one employee lends credence to Jawbone's lawsuit.



    Third, to make the blanket declaration that "everybody does it" reminds me of high school. There is no proof that "all tech companies do this," and I seriously doubt that this type of blatant theft happens in more than a few sleazier companies.

     

    It does have a basis in fact, one of which is that Apple have chosen to settle a similar case brought against them by A123 Systems: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/37155/20150304/apple-wants-to-settle-poaching-lawsuit-filed-by-electric-car-battery-maker-a123-systems.htm

  • Reply 7 of 15
    longtermlongterm Posts: 80member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

     

     

    It does have a basis in fact, one of which is that Apple have chosen to settle a similar case brought against them by A123 Systems: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/37155/20150304/apple-wants-to-settle-poaching-lawsuit-filed-by-electric-car-battery-maker-a123-systems.htm




    Not really; nowhere in that article did it mention employees stealing data on flash drives. It's one thing to poach employees, and yes, companies do that all the time; it's another thing for these same employees to be stealing data from the former employer, to provide to the new employer. I follow tech companies fairly closely, and have yet to read where Apple has found to be directing these new employees to steal information from their former employer.

  • Reply 8 of 15
    booboobooboo Posts: 48member

    I wouldn't like it if a new employee offered confidential info from his/her previous employer. If he/she has no scruples about doing that to them, he/she would probably do it again, to us.

     

    Besides, while it's good to be generally aware of what the competition is doing, it's better to be really in touch with the market and to have innovative ideas about products and services that nobody is doing yet.

  • Reply 9 of 15
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by longterm View Post

     



    Not really; nowhere in that article did it mention employees stealing data on flash drives. It's one thing to poach employees, and yes, companies do that all the time; it's another thing for these same employees to be stealing data from the former employer, to provide to the new employer. I follow tech companies fairly closely, and have yet to read where Apple has found to be directing these new employees to steal information from their former employer.




    Yes, really.  One of the main charges is that the employees Apple lured away misappropriated trade secrets, and that is mentioned in the article.  Apple hasn't been shown to have directed these employees to bring trade secrets with them, but the fact they targeted this one company for a significant number of individuals rather than approach those from a number of different companies does tend to allow a reasonable suspicion that it isn't just engineers with general skills in the field they wanted but engineers from that one particular company because of the unique and particular technologies they had developed.

  • Reply 10 of 15
    longtermlongterm Posts: 80member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

     



    Yes, really.  One of the main charges is that the employees Apple lured away misappropriated trade secrets, and that is mentioned in the article.  Apple hasn't been shown to have directed these employees to bring trade secrets with them, but the fact they targeted this one company for a significant number of individuals rather than approach those from a number of different companies does tend to allow a reasonable suspicion that it isn't just engineers with general skills in the field they wanted but engineers from that one particular company because of the unique and particular technologies they had developed.




    Nonsense. You take one fact and interpolate it to mean something else; you need to go back and read that article again, as I just did.



    The article states, "A123 also charged Apple with misappropriating trade secrets and tortious interference for encouraging A123's employees to leave the battery maker while still on contract."



    Encouraging workers to change jobs (while still on contract) doesn't mean that Apple stole trade secrets, nor does it mean that they encouraged the theft of proprietary information. Furthermore, most people don't leave a job to go to one that's not as good or pays less; clearly, these employees left A123 because they believed they'd be better off with Apple. 




    There's no secret that Tesla has lured away Apple employees, just as Apple lures workers from other tech companies like Google, Microsoft and others. However, the glaring difference here is that NOWHERE in the article did it mention these same new hires stealing data with flash drives.



    Just because these idiots allegedly stole data from their old employer doesn't mean that every new hire steals from his former employer, and based on the article you cited, I don't see where such an allegation was made in the case of Apple and A123. 

  • Reply 11 of 15
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member

    What, specifically, is it that you allege  I 'interpolated' trade secrets to, exactly?

  • Reply 12 of 15
    longtermlongterm Posts: 80member

    You said, "One of the main charges is that the employees Apple lured away misappropriated trade secrets, and that is mentioned in the article."



    That's NOT what the article said; it said, "...
     misappropriating trade secrets and tortious interference for encouraging A123's employees to leave the battery maker while still on contract."



    Not the same thing. They can't be sued for encouraging someone to change companies.



    ?Enough said, I'm bored with this. Apple has a huge target on its back, and somehow you took an article about Fitbit and Jawbone, and then started going on about Apple. One might assume that you're not an Apple user...

     

  • Reply 13 of 15
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,454member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post





    The difference here is that employees were emailing company info to themselves. Not necessarily an issue for fitbit but the employee will soon see themselves in court.

    Taking such information in of itself is not a problem for me. When I have left jobs in the past, I take forms and documents I've worked on, as well as some that I've used. I refer to them in doing my new job when I need to prepare a similar document for the new company. And in some cases, I discovered after the fact, I had copied data that I had no intention of taking, but it happened to reside on the same directories I was copying. In no event did I ever turn those original documents and files over to my new employer. So far with the allegations, I don't see anyone saying that these employees did that. Nor do I see misuse of the documents they did take. But as you say, that will all come out in court. I certainly would't start casting aspersions that the hiring company was soliciting this behavior, nor that this was the employee's intent.

  • Reply 14 of 15
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,454member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by longterm View Post



    The statement "All tech companies do this, including Apple" is absurd.



    First, the statement has no basis in fact;



    Second, the issue here is twofold: a) the employees in question were no doubt under legal agreements NOT to disseminate proprietary information, so they can (and probably will) be prosecuted; b) whether Fitbit knew about this activity will have be be proved; c) the very fact that it occurred with more than one employee lends credence to Jawbone's lawsuit.



    Third, to make the blanket declaration that "everybody does it" reminds me of high school. There is no proof that "all tech companies do this," and I seriously doubt that this type of blatant theft happens in more than a few sleazier companies.

    You assume I'm using that as a justification. I'm not. I'm stating a fact. Everyone breathes air. Everyone carries around the knowledge they've learned in their heads. Companies hire people for what's in their heads. I'm not defending theft. If it can be proven that the employee knowingly took proprietary information to willfully give to a competing company then that's a problem. But the fact someone took an actual file, the information of which that could just as easily have resided in one's head, doesn't necessarily make what's happened here a crime. 

  • Reply 15 of 15
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,603member
    mac_128 wrote: »
    Taking such information in of itself is not a problem for me. When I have left jobs in the past, I take forms and documents I've worked on, as well as some that I've used. I refer to them in doing my new job when I need to prepare a similar document for the new company. And in some cases, I discovered after the fact, I had copied data that I had no intention of taking, but it happened to reside on the same directories I was copying. In no event did I ever turn those original documents and files over to my new employer. So far with the allegations, I don't see anyone saying that these employees did that. Nor do I see misuse of the documents they did take. But as you say, that will all come out in court. I certainly would't start casting aspersions that the hiring company was soliciting this behavior, nor that this was the employee's intent.

    Exactly, it's the employee who is in the wrong until proven otherwise. There have been changed in UK law to allow employers to pursue ex employees for 'stealing' company data, not sure how US law covers this but we have been called upon to provide full records of email and file transactions for court cases.

    If you work in the UK you are opening yourself to prosecution should you be found to be using a previous employers data, in general it's more of a moral issue and if you are a scumbag profiting by using your previous employers work.
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