Six people have been charged with being in possession of trade secrets of Jawbone after they left the now-defunct wearables maker to work for arch rival Fitbit.
Five of the defendants — Katherine Mogal, Rong Zhang, Ana Rosario, Patrick Narron, and Patricio Romano — resigned from Jawbone between March and April 2015 after accepting job offers from Fitbit. The sixth defendant, Jing Qi Weiden, resigned in March 2014.
According to the indictment, each of the six received and possessed confidential Jawbone materials after they were no longer employed by the company. They allegedlly knew the materials — which included user surveys and vendor lists — were stolen and had the intent to use them for the “economic benefit of someone other than Jawbone.”
“Intellectual property is the heart of innovation and economic development in Silicon Valley,” Alex Tse, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, said in a news release. “The theft of trade secrets violates federal law, stifles innovation, and injures the rightful owners of that intellectual property.”
Jawbone’s suit alleged that since early 2015, Fitbit had been “systematically plundering” its employees as part of a scheme to “decimate” Jawbone.
Mogal, Zhang, Rosario, Narron, and Romano were all accused in the suit of bringing to Fitbit “reams of proprietary and confidential information,” even using USB thumb drives to download materials from Jawbone computers.
Jawbone went out of business in 2017 and the civil case was dismissed in January after the parties reportedly reached a settlement.
“We believe the Justice Department’s indictment today of six current and former Fitbit Inc. employees for stealing trade secrets from their former employer, Jawbone, validates the claims we made in our lawsuit against Fitbit,” said Hosain Rahman, CEO of Jawbone Health, a spinoff of the former Jawbone company.
A Fitbit spokesman noted that in a related International Trade Commission proceeding, a federal administrative law judge “found that no Jawbone trade secrets were misappropriated or used in any Fitbit product, feature or technology.”