Wahoo and Zwift Reach Settlement Regarding Patent Infringement

By: Anthony De La Torre

On September 6, 2023, Zwift and Wahoo, two of the largest names in indoor cycling, issued a joint statement announcing that they had settled a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Wahoo against Zwift in October 2022.[1] The suit alleged that Zwift infringed on three of Wahoo’s patents regarding bicycle trainers.[2] In 2012, Wahoo revealed their Bluetooth direct drive smart trainer: the Wahoo KICKR.[3] A cyclist could remove their back wheel and attach their bike to the smart trainer.[4] The trainer had built-in power metrics and could control resistance.[5] Unlike other smart trainers on the market, the KICKR used an open platform, meaning anyone could write software for it.[6]

Zwift, an online cycling and running training platform, launched in 2014.[7] By connecting a device that transmits power metrics, cyclists can ride and race around Zwift’s virtual worlds.[8] Since its inception, Zwift has seen as many as 47,000 peak concurrent riders, and has drawn over 2,300 professional cyclists to its virtual roads.[9]

In July 2018, Wahoo unveiled two new direct drive trainers: a new version of its KICKR, and a more budget friendly trainer called the KICKR CORE.[10] The KICKR CORE was similar to the KICKR, with a few notable differences. First, the CORE had a lighter flywheel than the KICKR, and also, one would have to purchase and install a cassette, rather than having one preinstalled.[11] The CORE retailed for $899, as compared to the $1119 for its more expensive counterpart.[12]

In September 2022, Zwift announced that it would partner with JetBlack, a trainer manufacturer, to begin selling its own direct drive trainer.[13] The Zwift Hub was slated for an October 3, 2022 release.[14] Featuring a slightly lighter flywheel than the KICKR CORE, but with a cassette preinstalled, the Zwift Hub was announced to retail for $499.[15] While cycling fans may have been rejoicing at the opportunity to get a seemingly high quality, direct drive trainer at this point, Wahoo was seemingly less thrilled.

On October 3, 2022, the day the Zwift Hub was released, Wahoo filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Zwift and JetBlack, alleging that the Zwift Hub infringed on three of its direct drive trainer patents.[16]

On November 17, 2022, Wahoo filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against Zwift.[17] In their motion, Wahoo argued that their claim was likely to succeed, and that they would suffer irrevocable harm because of the damage the Zwift Hub would do to Wahoo’s retail sales channels.[18] They argued that Zwift is primarily a software company, and so the harm to Zwift would be comparatively minimal.[19] Finally, they argued that the damage to both Wahoo and its retailers made the granting of a preliminary injunction firmly in the public interest.[20] An injunction hearing date was set for April 11, 2023. [21]

On February 3, 2023, Zwift filed its response.[22] Zwift argued that Wahoo was not likely to succeed on its claim, noting that Wahoo’s expert could not conclude whether the Zwift Hub’s flywheel was the same as Wahoo’s.[23] They further argued that the CORE made up a small portion of Wahoo’s overall revenue, and pointed out that no retailers have declared that they would refuse to carry Wahoo products.[24]

Wahoo’s request for a preliminary injunction was ultimately denied.[25] The suit continued though. Wahoo filed its first amended complaint on May 10, 2023.[26] Zwift responded on May 24, 2023.[27]

Ultimately, on August 31, 2023, Wahoo and Zwift amicably settled.[28] On September 6, 2023, Zwift issued a statement saying that Wahoo granted Zwift a limited license to use its patents.[29] Zwift would sell its trainer in existing markets: the U.S., UK, and Europe.[30] Zwift would once again sell Wahoo trainers on its store front, and all sales of Wahoo’s KICKR CORE would come with a 1 year Zwift membership.[31] The KICKR CORE, as of the writing of this post, now retails for $699.[32]

[1]  Eric Schlange, Wahoo and Zwift announce settlement of pending litigation, Zwift Insider (2023), https://zwiftinsider.com/wahoo-zwift-settlement/ (last visited Sep 22, 2023).

[2] Wahoo Fitness L.L.C. v. Zwift, Inc.. Legal research tools from Casetext (2023) [hereinafter Wahoo v. Zwift Casetext] https://casetext.com/case/wahoo-fitness-llc-v-zwift-inc (last visited Sep 22, 2023).

[3] First look at Wahoo Fitness Kickr ant+/bluetooth smart trainer with Power Meter, DC Rainmaker (2020), https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2012/08/first-look-at-wahoo-fitness-kickr.html (last visited Sep 22, 2023).

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Mark Bailey, Zwift: the story behind the online phenomenon, The Telegraph (2017), https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/zwift-story-behind-indoor-cycling-phenomenon/.

[8] Id.

[9] Eric Schlange, A summary of Zwift stats since 2014 beta launch, Zwift Insider (2022), https://zwiftinsider.com/zwift-stats/ (last visited Sep 22, 2023).

[10] Wahoo Kickr core trainer in-depth review, DC Rainmaker (2020), https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2018/09/wahoo-kickr-core-trainer-in-depth-review-2.html (last visited Sep 22, 2023).

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Eric Schlange, Zwift Hub Direct Drive Smart trainer announced, Zwift Insider (2023), https://zwiftinsider.com/zwift-hub-announced/ (last visited Sep 22, 2023).

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Wahoo v. Zwift Casetext, supra note 2.

[17] Opening Brief in Support of its Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, Wahoo Fitness v. Zwift, 2022 WL 20652614.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Zwift’s Response to Wahoo’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Wahoo Fitness v. Zwift, 2023 WL 5955815.

[23] Id.

[24] Id.

[25] Wahoo’s injunction request against Zwift Hub denied by judge, DC Rainmaker (2023), https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2023/04/injunction-request-against.html (last visited Sep 22, 2023).

[26] Wahoo Fitness L.L.C. v. Zwift, Inc., 1:22-cv-01295, CourtListener, https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/65394466/wahoo-fitness-llc-v-zwift-inc/ (last visited Sep 22, 2023).

[27] Id.

[28] Schlange, supra note 1.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Kickr core with 1-year Zwift membership, Wahoo Fitness, https://www.wahoofitness.com/devices/indoor-cycling/bike-trainer-bundles/zwift-bundles/kickr-core-zwift-buy#feature_sec (last visited Sep 22, 2023).