Two Australian-founded fitness companies have gone head to head in court again as part of a protracted patent rights dispute, with Body Fit Training (BFT) coming out on top of its rival, NASDAQ-listed F45.
In February the New South Wales Federal Court ordered two of F45's patents be revoked, but the group has pressed ahead with its patent litigation in the US against BFT and Xponential Fitness, the latter having purchased BFT's intellectual property (IP) just over a year ago.
Last week in the Delaware Federal District Court, United States Circuit Judge William C. Bryson granted BFT's motion for a summary judgment, finding all asserted claims of a particular F45 patent were invalid.
The patent, number 10,143,890, relates to methods of configuring fitness studios based on information sent from a central server. F45 claimed that this invention enabled its rapid growth and commercial success, and it sought an injunction against Body Fit Training as part of its requested relief.
But Judge Bryson was unconvinced that the patent claim reflected an "inventive concept".
He said F45’s evidence was focused heavily on the fact that the company's system relied on computing technology, in particular the display screens employed at the exercise stations that display information from a studio information program file to direct studio customers in performing the exercises at each station.
However, the judge deemed "simply using a computer, networking components, and computer peripherals to perform tasks that were previously performed (or that could be performed) by humans is not inventive".
"Second, many of the comments about the innovative nature and success of the F45 studios were focused on items that were not claimed in the asserted claims of the ’890 patent," he said.
"The evidence fails to tie the “member experience” in the F45 studios to the specific steps set forth in the claims.
"Ultimately, F45 has failed to point to any evidence that the specific limitations found in the claims, or any combination of those limitations, adds any inventive concept to the underlying abstract idea."
New York law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher described the decision as an "important win" in a "high profile, high stakes, competitor vs. competitor patent litigation".
"We are proud to have delivered a great result for Body Fit Training, especially given we came into the case half-way through,” said Indy Mukerji, Willkie’s head of tech patent litigation and the lead partner on the case.
"We hope Judge Bryson’s decision will put an end to F45’s disputes with Body Fit Training, and allow Body Fit to continue innovating its cutting-edge personal training system."
The response from a BFT spokesperson was one of relief.
"BFT welcomes the recent court ruling in favour of Body Fit Training over F45 in the USA, where Judge Bryson found the ’890 patent to be invalid, and as such, the patent has been revoked. Judge Bryson also added, that should the 890 Patent have been valid, Body Fit Training through the use of its own software technology, had not infringed several of F45's claims," the spokesperson said.
"Both decisions have been met with a sense of relief and satisfaction by the BFT family. It is confirmation of what we had always believed, and now allows us to concentrate solely on the development of our BFT offering, and continuing to deliver on our promise to our franchisees and our members, to be different, better.
"We would like to thank our USA legal team, led by Willke Farr and Gallagher, and in particular our USA partners, Xponential Fitness for their ongoing support and trust in the BFT brand."
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