Fusion Garage's JooJoo Enters Full Production, Despite Lawsuit

Fusion Garage announced that its controversial JooJoo tablet PC has entered full production, with devices expected to reach consumers by the end of February. The move comes days after Fusion Garage moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it by TechCrunch, the publishing entity founded by Michael Arrington, which alleges that the JooJoo's design is a rip-off of his unreleased CrunchPad tablet PC. The name "JooJoo" may be derived from "Ju-Ju," a West African term for objects such as skulls possessed by spirits.

Fusion Garage announced on Feb. 3 that its controversial JooJoo tablet PC had entered full production, with devices expected to reach consumers by the end of the month. That announcement came two days after Fusion Garage moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it by TechCrunch, the publishing entity founded by blogger Michael Arrington, which alleges that the JooJoo is effectively a rip-off of Arrington's unreleased CrunchPad device.

Meanwhile, Fusion Garage CEO Chandra Rathakrishnan said in a Feb. 3 interview with tech blog Gizmodo that Apple's recently announced iPad was an attempt to enter "a category that we've defined." That follows earlier comments from Rathakrishnan that his company's device had a technological advantage over the iPad because of its "larger screen" and ability to run Flash.

However, the iPad will be offered in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models, with 10 hours of battery life and a weight of either 1.5 or 1.6 pounds, depending on the model; by comparison, Fusion Garage is offering a single 4GB model, priced at $499, which is rated at 5 hours of battery life and weighs 2.4 pounds.

Fusion Garage suggests that the name "JooJoo" is an "African word" that means "magical object." In French, "joujou" is a colloquial term for "toy," and it seems as if the term was adapted into "Ju-Ju" by residents of West Africa following French colonization to refer to objects such as skulls and teeth possessed by spirits; books such as Mary Henrietta Kingsley's "Travels in West Africa, Congo Francais, Corisco and Cameroons" (1904) make reference to it, as does the 19th century diary of Henry A. Ward.

Fusion Garage may need a little bit of spiritual deliverance to see it through what by all indications could be a drawn-out legal battle with TechCrunch, which alleged in a December lawsuit that the JooJoo is a rip-off of Arrington's never-released CrunchPad. On Feb. 1, Fusion Garage filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit (Case No. 09-cv-5812 JW).

"The case arises out of a failed merger," begins the filing's preliminary statement. "After the parties' merger talks fell through, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit to disrupt Fusion Garage's introduction of its product to the market. While Plaintiffs claim to have part ownership in some unspecified intellectual property of Fusion Garage, they do not allege the existence of ... any contract at all between the parties."
Arrington had previously alleged that his version of the tablet project was fundamentally an open-source one, designed so that anyone with the technical wherewithal could build their own device. In its filing, Fusion Garage counters, "While Arrington stated in his blog post that he wanted to 'open source' the product and 'let anyone build one who wants to,' TechCrunch now claims it owns certain 'business ideas' related to the Web tablet."

Arrington originally aimed for his CrunchPad to cost $200, although reports throughout 2009 indicated that the price point would most likely rise; Popular Mechanics later named the device one of its "10 Most Brilliant Products of 2009."

In November 2009, the document continues, one of Fusion Garage's primary investors insisted that the company offer Arrington a merger deal where TechCrunch would receive 10 percent equity, an offer at which Arrington reportedly balked. When the merger talks allegedly fell apart, Fusion Garage moved forward with the development of the JooJoo. Arrington filed his lawsuit on Dec. 10.

Arrington has used his TechCrunch platform to level a few broadsides against Fusion Garage, stating that the company was on "the edge of going out of business" and that its behavior constituted a "pattern of lies." But the matter will ultimately be settled in court.