St. Louis patent attorney Bryan Wheelock spoke to Bloomberg Law about Peloton Interactive Inc. and its pending litigation efforts against rival exercise bike makers Echelon Fitness and Flywheel Sports.
Peloton, which went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange on September 26, maintains a portfolio of patents, trademarks, and copyrights that it uses to help make its combination of exercise bikes and interactive, instructor-led workouts more appealing to consumers. Peloton went as far as stating in its IPO registration statement that the company relies in large part on its IP and that any challenges could narrow or invalidate its IP rights.
Those challenges are now here, and many legal experts are wondering if Peloton’s IP is strong enough to win out.
Peloton did not create the technology behind computerized stationary bikes or spinning classes, nor did it create on-demand programming. It did invent a system for live and on-demand video classes that allow users to track their progress over time, although any patents on this technology are at risk for being invalidated as obvious, many experts say.
Regarding trade dress, or the look and feel of the product, Wheelock adds that a black stationary bike would hardly stand out in the market. This could make it difficult for Peloton to prove trade dress infringement.
Wheelock also raises the point that Peloton’s success may not be attributable to its patents, but rather to its marketing strategies and consumer insight. This will not make their technology any easier to protect with patents, though, even if their insights into the market were not necessarily obvious.
“Once you knew what people wanted, providing it was simple. It wasn’t that technically difficult a problem,” Wheelock says. “I think they have some trouble on obviousness grounds. I don’t think their tremendous success is attributable to inventing, but the marketing.”
The question of whether their IP will afford a large enough buffer to ward off competitors remains to be seen.