Skybell Technologies, an Irvine smart doorbell startup, has filed a lawsuit claiming its Santa Monica competitor, Ring, copied its technology and is profiting from advertising and marketing techniques rather than innovative software and hardware.
The lawsuit states that Ring knowingly used technology from three Skybell patents after Skybell's chief executive, Joe Scalisi, sent an email to Ring founder Jaime Siminoff that included a link to the company's patent portfolio in the signature.
Oleg Elkhunovich, one of Skybell's attorneys, said he does not know the nature of the email conversations between the CEOs, but Siminoff's response to one email demonstrated that he knew about the patents.
One of Ring's patents also references art in a Skybell patent.
"Ring has every right to attempt to compete with Skybell via hype rather than innovation," the lawsuit states. "What Ring may not do, however, is compete by theft."
Skybell alleges that Ring now uses Skybell's patented system for detecting people from different angles. The company also claims Ring copied another patent that included a live-view feature enabling users to record the scene from their doorbell as it happens. Lastly, Skybell alleges that Ring copied a feature that allows users to select a doorbell tone on their mobile device and then upload the sound file to their doorbell.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court, is a clash of two Southland start-ups with similar products but different strategies.
Ring, founded in 2012, has raised more than $209 million with the help of investors such as Richard Branson and Goldman Sachs, and partnered with Shaquille O'Neal in May to install Ring doorbells in Jonesboro, Ga., homes.
The startup, formerly named DoorBot, also gained attention after being featured on ABC's "Shark Tank" in 2013. It was denied funding, but the visibility helped drive the company to $5 million in sales and to rebrand.
"If you look at the product presented on 'Shark Tank' and Skybell's, they're vastly different, with the Ring product being this bulky, large thing and Skybell's being miniaturized," Elkhunovich said.
Skybell believes Ring started incorporating its technology in its devices after it rebranded, he said.
Skybell Technologies has raised $600,000 on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo since 2013 -- which at the time made it one of 56 campaigns on the platform to have raised more than half a million dollars.
Ring frequently airs TV commercials and has been featured on the "Ellen" show. The lawsuit criticized Ring for relying on advertising campaigns to familiarize the public with the product.
But Skybell's complaint is not short of boastful statements. Skybell claims to be more successful in research and development with 71 patents, which it said is more than any company in the video doorbell market. It also said it beat industry competitors in product reviews by the New York Times and Entrepreneur.
"After its 'Shark Tank' appearance, Ring has continued to pursue the same strategy: attract sales by advertising and marketing, without necessarily providing any technical innovation," Skybell said in the lawsuit. "Indeed, although Ring may claim to be a leader in video doorbell technology, the numbers tell a different story."
Ring, which declined to comment on the lawsuit, is moving to diversify its business beyond doorbells. The company announced Monday its purchase of Cleveland-based Mr. Beams, which makes LED lighting technology that increases security, such as indoor and outdoor night lights and lights with motion sensors.
Ring will integrate Mr. Beam's energy-efficient lights into more of its devices and release new, standalone security lights called Ring Beams, according to a company news release. Ring declined to disclose the price of the acquisition.
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