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Modern stationary cycles have come a long way since the exercise bike you left in the basement for years after that one Christmas until you unloaded it on that sap at the garage sale. Nowadays at-home bikes can give you that spin class vibe, or replicate stages of the Tour de France. And with web-enabled software, you can track your fitness and compete with other riders without leaving your exercise room, taking you far beyond the two pedals, one wheel, and handlebars setups of the 70s.
With all that new tech, there are bound to be a few intellectual property disagreements, and the mother of all exercise cycle lawsuits may finally have arrived. Peloton, maker of the first at-home exercise bike that allowed riders to compete in real-time and over historical benchmarks, is suing Flywheel Sports, for allegedly stealing its software and graphic interface.
Infringing Rather Than Innovating
Flywheel started as a brick-and-mortar boutique cycling studio offering on-site classes to members. Last year, "having witnessed Peloton's success -- and knowing that it had been losing customers to Peloton" according to the lawsuit, the company released its own exercise cycle:
But rather than innovating and investing, as Peloton had, Flywheel infringed the Peloton Patents by creating a copycat of the Peloton Bike experience called the "FLY Anywhere" that, among other things, detects, synchronizes and compares the ride metrics of remote users on a graphical user interface. With its FLY Anywhere bike, Flywheel infringes the Peloton Patents by, among other things, displaying live and archived cycling class content to remote riders, tracking a remote rider's performance, and comparing that remote rider's performance against the performance of other remote riders."
Peloton is claiming Flywheel infringed on two of its patents and is suing for damages, costs, expenses, and prejudgment and post-judgment interest.
A Spy on the Wall
Not only that, but Peloton claims Flywheel sent a well-heeled spy to a private investment conference in 2017. Michael Milken, according to the lawsuit, "falsely presented himself to [Peloton founder John] Foley as a potential investor in Peloton and pressed for -- and obtained -- information from Foley about Peloton's technology and business strategy -- all without ever disclosing his existing multi-million-dollar investment in Flywheel." Peloton claims Milken passed the info on to Flywheel; three months after that meeting, "Flywheel publicly announced the development of an at-home bike that would directly compete with Peloton."
Peloton has taken a large business gamble, expanding beyond the bike and branching out into other exercise equipment and fitness classes and raising half a billion in financing just last month. And they're betting they'll have one less competitor after this litigation is through.