Fitbug vs. Fitbit: activity trackers in trademark tussle

Fitbit activity trackers are popping up in pockets across the country but, apparently, U.K.-based Fitbug believes it deserves some credit for its rival’s adoption.

FitbugIn a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for Northern California, Fitbug accuses San Francisco-based Fitbit (see disclosure) of trademark infringement that is causing “irreparable harm and damage” to the company.

Aside from the name similarity, Fitbug alleges that Fitbit’s logo, imagery and packaging bear a “striking resemblance” to early Fitbug marketing material and have caused “consumer confusion.”

Fitbug was founded in 2005 and Fitbit came along in 2007. Both digital health companies make wearable devices that track users’ activity and sync with web and mobile services to help users increase their fitness. And as evidence of customer confusion, the complaint says that, in the last year, it’s received more than 200 customer service inquiries from Fitbit customers and that several news reports and blog posts have mixed up the two services.

Fitbit, mobile healthIn response to the allegations, James Park, Fitbit’s CEO and co-founder said in a statement:

“Fitbit is very proud of our fantastic products and reputation, which we have earned solely through the tremendous efforts of the Fitbit team. We are surprised by the allegations contained in Fitbug’s complaint. We are confident of our legal position in the case and look forward to addressing the allegations in court.”

This is hardly the first time that companies have to come to blows over similar names. A few years ago, Facebook (s FB) sued parody site Lamebook (and ultimately settled). Although the dispute never reached legal proportions, Chicago-based programming bootcamp Code Academy last year changed its name to Starter League partly because of confusion with online coding startup Codecademy.

Fitbug, which says it has two U.S. Trademark Registrations, is asking the court to require Fitbit to cease the use of its logo and refrain from conduct that causes confusion with Fitbug’s brand and services.

Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.