Fitbit Slows on Sensor Development. Can Samsung Catch Up?

Fitbit has always been a leader in consumer sleep technology. The company’s large patent portfolio (149 published documents in the last five years) is what made it such an attractive target for Google, which is close to closing the $2.1B acquisition over a year after it was first announced. But Fitbit’s patenting strategy has changed in the past few years. Notably, the company has slowed in patenting sensor technologies, with only three new applications published since 2018. The latest Fitbit model released in the summer of 2020 does include new sensors for ECG, skin and temperature, but these were covered by patents filed prior to 2018. 

So what has Fitbit been doing in the meantime? The wearables company is continuing to patent in Data Processing and Analytics, which is a key part of Google’s business model despite pushback from antitrust regulation. Google is also well-equipped to license and acquire other hardware technologies that can supplement Fitbit’s R&D, which could explain the decrease in filings. But one company that probably won’t sell is rival Samsung, which has actually increased patenting in the Sensors category in the past two years while still maintaining a growing portfolio in Data Processing and Analytics.

In 2019, Fitbit sold 16 million devices compared to Samsung shipping 11 million units in just the fourth quarter of the same year. Samsung’s newest Galaxy Watch3, released earlier in 2020, already features sleep monitoring and its own sleep score calculation. Fitbit has always focused on fitness, but data acquisition and analytics are very profitable in the tech world. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the patents indicate where Fitbit is heading next. You can learn more by getting Patent Forecast® for Consumer Sleep technology.