In the highly competitive world of fitness technology, intellectual property is a company's lifeblood. If that vital asset is threatened, the health of the company is at stake.

A global manufacturer of wearable training and activity devices and heart rate monitors recently turned to Holland & Knight's intellectual property attorneys to fend off patent infringement claims and assert its own patents against competitors in two separate cases.

Finnish company Polar Electro Oy makes wireless devices that Icon Health & Fitness claimed violated its patent on an exercise system with both "in-band" and "out-of-band" communications.

Arguing on behalf of Polar, Holland & Knight scrutinized the competitor's claims, saying that the patent was invalid because the terms "in-band" and "out-of-band," along with the relationship between them, were ambiguous. Both the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed. The Federal Circuit applied the U.S. Supreme Court's Nautilus standard for indefiniteness, finding that the terms were indefinite. The Federal Circuit acknowledged that "in-band" and "out-of-band" are related but determined that, unless meaning can be elucidated from the specification or file history, there would be no way to draw a distinction. Finding no such distinction, the Federal Circuit held that there was no way to determine the metes and bounds of the claim with reasonable certainty.

The Federal Circuit also applied the Supreme Court's recent Teva decision to review the district court's factual findings. It provided guidance for future patent challenges, noting that the district court relied upon evidence introduced by the parties and the parties' experts. The Federal Circuit indicated that this evidence "is precisely the type of extrinsic evidence upon which a district court may rely in analyzing the record before it when construing claim terms," and that the district court's "findings on such evidence constitute findings of fact" reviewed for clear error.

Holland & Knight's Intellectual Property Group's aggressive stance demonstrated to Polar's adversaries that our firm and client are ready to litigate and will not back down to legal challenges.

Just three weeks earlier, Holland & Knight's patent dispute lawyers helped Polar protect its intellectual property through a reversal by the Federal Circuit. Polar had sued another Finnish company, Suunto Oy, alleging that its manufacture and sale of exercise equipment through its sister company in Delaware infringed Polar's patents.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware said it did not have personal jurisdiction over Suunto, but Holland & Knight gained a key appellate victory when the Federal Circuit ruled that Suunto did have sufficient contacts in Delaware to support Polar's claim. The Federal Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction and remanded the case back to Delaware. The Federal Circuit found that Suunto created minimum contacts for jurisdiction when it purposefully shipped its allegedly infringing products to Delaware, even though Suunto's sister company paid for shipping. This victory allows Polar to continue to assert its patents against Suunto in Polar's chosen jurisdiction.

Wrapping up two global patent challenges within weeks, Holland & Knight's Intellectual Property Group Partner John Moran said the ruling is yet another example of how the firm can help a client that "is committed to protecting its intellectual property."