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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Jon Howell: Fighting Hyperice’s Copycats

M&A deals, NBA, NFL and MLB pacts

Jon Howell, as general counsel of Hyperice Inc., has spent the past two years fighting counterfeit sites and products of the Irvine performance recovery brand.

“When you’re selling something that is popular and that people see they can make money from,” the copycats are endless, Howell told the Business Journal.

The wave of copycats is finally beginning to let up after the company last year, under Howell’s leadership, obtained a general exclusion order from the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) for one of its utility patents—a “big achievement” for Hyperice, he said.

Howell also oversaw the company’s acquisitions of air compression massage device maker Normatec, thermal technology company RecoverX and meditation device maker Core.

He additionally helped bring Hyperice to the big leagues, leading partnerships between the company and the NBA, NFL, MLB, PGA Tour, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez, San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes II, among other professional leagues, teams and athletes.

Howell was recognized for his achievements at Hyperice on Nov. 10 at the Business Journal’s 12th annual General Counsel Awards at the Irvine Marriott, as the Outstanding GC of a Private Company.

Hyper Growth Continues

Hyperice’s “hyper growth” and numerous pro athlete investors have made it a standout among Orange County-based sports wellness companies.

The company, founded in 2010, is backed by Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, four-time PGA Tour major champion Rory McIlroy and Los Angeles Laker Russell Westbrook, among other pro athlete investors.

Hyperice, which valued itself at $850 million in its Series B round last year, offers athletic recovery products ranging from percussion massage guns to heat massage wearables and air compression devices.

It has raised nearly $45 million in growth capital to date, according to Howell. Revenue for the company has grown nearly more than fourteenfold over the past four years, from $13 million in 2017 to over $200 million last year, Howell said.

Patent, Trademark Infringers

As Hyperice soared in popularity among trainers and pro athletes, so did its number of copycats.

“In my early days, that was the bane of my existence. We’d have counterfeit listings show up on Amazon and crush our Amazon sales,” Howell said.

By leveraging Amazon’s patent enforcement program, Howell helped Hyperice permanently remove 200 to 300 listings that have violated the company’s patents, according to Howell. Howell’s work on IP enforcement, including the USITC exclusion order, has reduced the time of removal for a copycat listing from a maximum of 90 days to six days.

Since joining the team, Howell says he has seen trademark abuse against Hyperice fall about 90%.

Howell, however, knows the copycat war is far from over.

“I haven’t seen a counterfeit Hyperice website in six to eight months,” he said. But with Black Friday on the horizon, “it wouldn’t shock me if one popped up in the next week.”

OC Born and Raised

Howell, who learned of Hyperice through his private practice, had been a fan of the company long before he joined the team 2020.

An OC native, Howell grew up watching Angels games and playing baseball, soccer and basketball in his childhood home in Fullerton.

He stayed in his home city when he went to college, majoring in political science at California State University, Fullerton.

After watching his older brother, Irvine-based Rutan & Tucker LLP Partner Peter Howell, pursue corporate law, the younger Howell followed in his brother’s footsteps.

He earned his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2004 and began working at a firm led by corporate attorney Jeff Czech. Howell, within a few years, made partner at the firm, which became Czech & Howell APC. ­­

After connecting with Hyperice founder Anthony Katz through a company his firm represented, Howell, Katz and Hyperice CEO Jim Huether became friends. Howell’s firm began representing the company and by 2018, Hyperice made up the bulk of his work.

Within two years, Howell left his firm to continue working for Hyperice as the company’s in-house counsel.

“In private practice … you’re like an outside part of the team,” he said. “I always knew I wanted to work as part of a team with a greater mission.”

Lowering Price Points

Hyperice’s mission is to “help every human on Earth move better,” Howell said.

“To do that, we’ve got to make our product accessible,” he added.

Since its founding, the company has continuously sought to streamline its manufacturing processes to lower its price points and make its products more accessible to consumers.

The average percussion massage gun sells for below $150, according to Howell.

Hyperice recently bested that trend with its Hypervolt Go 1 massage gun, which it started selling at Best Buy stores in August for $129. The Hypervolt Go 1 initially launched in 2020 for $199.

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