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Fitness giant sues exercise app developers

Published April 12, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (BRAIN) Utah-based Icon Health & Fitness is suing five top developers of mobile and online fitness-related applications for allegedly infringing two of its patents through various devices, websites and systems that allow users to upload and store exercise data.

In five separate cases filed in November and December of last year in Utah’s district court, Icon claims that Strava, Garmin, Polar Electro, FitnessKeeper and MapMyFitness are violating Icon’s patents, known in their shortened versions as “800” and “271.”

According to court documents, the 800 patent, filed in 2005, covers “methods and systems for controlling an exercise apparatus using a USB-compatible portable remote device.”

In an example, the patent paperwork describes a portable system that retrieves exercise programs from a remote communication system on an exercise machine, like a treadmill. A sensor tracks one or more measurable parameters of the user’s performance, which is delivered to the remote communication system via the control device.

The 271, which was filed four years earlier, patents “the method and apparatus for using physical characteristic data collected from two or more subjects.”

A physical characteristic of a subject could include anything from vitals like heart rate, blood pressure and respiration rate to weight, height or brain-wave pattern. The patented system receives data of a physical characteristic, evaluates the data and sends the evaluation to a device.

Mobile apps, such as Strava or MapMyRide, collect users’ data from a GPS device or smartphone, which can be uploaded to a website for analysis.

Icon says this process violates its patents, as do the defendants' devices, including the Polar FT80, other related Polar heart monitors and the Garmin FR70 monitoring device and related heart monitors. The suits also claim the companies’ various websites infringe on its patents.

Icon is asking for the court to find each of the defendants liable and to award damages to compensate Icon for loss of income. Icon is requesting a jury trial in all the cases.

Although the suits were all filed late last year, none of the defendants’ attorneys have filed responses yet, and have until later this month or next to do so.

On its website, Icon bills itself as the world’s largest developer, manufacturer and marketer of fitness equipment with such brands as NordicTrack and Freemotion Fitness. It also licenses the Reebok and Gold’s Gym brand names. The company was founded in 1977 by two Utah State University business majors and holds 223 patents with another 107 pending, the site said. Icon has been involved in about 175 patent or trademark infringement cases since 1991, according to court records.

Nicole Formosa

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Topics associated with this article: Lawsuits/legal

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