Apple files countersuit against stereo headphone inventor Koss

nanoguy

Posts: 745   +12
Staff member
In context: In a move that looked a lot like patent trolling, Koss sued Apple for allegedly infringing on its patents with several of its audio products. However, it may have sabotaged its own lawsuit by virtue of an agreement between the two companies, which is why Apple has filed a countersuit and is unlikely to settle.

Last month, the company that pioneered the stereo headphone sued Apple in the US District Court in Waco, Texas, alleging the Cupertino company infringed on no less than five of its patents concerning wireless headphones and wireless connectivity. Koss took issue with AirPods, AirPods Pro, the Beats line of headphones, as well as Apple Watch and HomePod.

Apple is getting back at Koss with a six-point countersuit (spotted by Patently Apple) in the US District Court for the Northern District of California San Jose Division, where it argues that Koss's claims have no basis in reality. One of the points is particularly dangerous for Koss, as it involves a confidentiality agreement between the two companies.

Apparently, Koss and Apple representatives have met on several occasions to discuss licensing the former's patents. Apple eventually decided not to license any of them, but the two companies signed a confidentiality agreement on August 6, 2017, that meant neither party could use what was discussed or the existence of those discussions "in a litigation or any other administrative or court proceeding for any purpose."

This means the lawsuit filed by Koss could be rendered useless in the near future, as the company is in breach of contract and Apple says it has proof that it didn't infringe on any patents when designing its audio products.

For instance, one of the patents invoked by Koss in its lawsuit describes the use of a processor for "upon activation of a user-control of the headphone assembly, initiating transmission of a request to the remote, network-connected server." Apple explains that's not the case with AirPods, which only communicate with a local device they've been paired with.

On a different count, Koss alleges it holds patents for the in-ear design that is used in many wireless headphones, including the AirPods Pro. It's entirely possible that Koss intends to go after other headphone manufacturers but chose to target Apple since it's the wealthiest of the bunch. Koss is not known as a patent troll, and it did in fact pioneer many technologies behind stereo headphones, so this is an odd move from a company that is well-respected in the audio industry.

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Bullwinkle M

Posts: 454   +350
Koss is NOT using "what was discussed or the existence of those discussions "in a litigation or any other administrative or court proceeding for any purpose."

They are using PATENT violations which are distinct and separate from "discussions"

DUH

Disclaimer: I am not a "REAL" attorney, yet I play-act "as" an Attorney / Judge / Jury and Executioner at TechSpot!
 
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Thanthan

Posts: 57   +103
Koss is NOT using "what was discussed or the existence of those discussions "in a litigation or any other administrative or court proceeding for any purpose."

They are using PATENT violations which are distinct and separate from "discussions"

DUH

Disclaimer: I am not a "REAL" attorney, yet I play-act "as" an Attorney / Judge / Jury and Executioner at TechSpot!
Yea pretty much this. It seems unlikely that an NDA regarding discussions about possible patent licensing could stop someone from suing you over patent violations later down the line. Seems like it should be unenforcable in any legal system with a basis in reality. That does however mean it might be possible in the US x)
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,809   +1,041
I probably never saw their "Pro stuff" and I could say I saw and heard a lot of audio equipment.
What "pro" products do they make?
You're correct. I was thinking of JBL, the other brand I have filed away a 'shitty budget headphones' in my head. They have some decent budget mixing decks last time I checked.
 

Danny101

Posts: 1,617   +694
I'm rooting for Koss because I'm rooting against Apple. They're too big for their britches and constantly bullying start-ups and getting away with it.
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,334   +1,216
Koss is NOT using "what was discussed or the existence of those discussions "in a litigation or any other administrative or court proceeding ... They are using PATENT violations which are distinct and separate from "discussions"
Except that in their lawsuit they specifically refer to those discussions with Apple and claim them as basis for the suit. You can read the actual court filing here.

I'm rooting for Koss because I'm rooting against Apple. They're too big for their britches...
Why not root for who's in the right?

TBH Koss is not known as a patent troll, Koss is known as a manfufacturer of incredible garbage headphones.
Once long ago I bought a cheap pair of earbuds from them with a "lifetime warranty". When they inevitably failed after only a couple months use, I discovered the warranty required me to return them, return postage paid, along with a $20 fee (exactly what I paid for them new) to receive a replacement pair.
 

Danny101

Posts: 1,617   +694
Except that in their lawsuit they specifically refer to those discussions with Apple and claim them as basis for the suit. You can read the actual court filing here.

Why not root for who's in the right?

Once long ago I bought a cheap pair of earbuds from them with a "lifetime warranty". When they inevitably failed after only a couple months use, I discovered the warranty required me to return them, return postage paid, along with a $20 fee (exactly what I paid for them new) to receive a replacement pair.
Generally yes. And would even defend Apple if they weren't constantly bullying small start-up companies with frivolous lawsuits like the one now going on over what, an image of a fruit? Ridiculous! Just because they can. The fact that it wasn't immediately dismissed by a judge is proof of corruption and back scratching. I'm all for capitalism, but things like this is why there's such a push for socialism, another fool's errand. I'm not a big fan of regulation, but both sides are irrational beyond balance and could use some rationality, but there seems to be none to be found these days. Thank you zombie voters. Stop the world. Get me off of this crazy ball.
 
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Endymio

Posts: 1,334   +1,216
And would even defend Apple if they weren't constantly bullying small start-up companies with frivolous lawsuits like the one now going on over what, an image of a fruit? Ridiculous!
If you're referring to the "Prepear" app, Apple isn't suing the firm; they're opposing the trademark registration. You may not realize it, but marks recognized as "famous" are entitled to additional protection under trademark law. I don't necessarily agree with the law in this case, but the fact remains that Apple's filing with the USPTO is hardly frivolous ... in fact, their attorneys would likely be guilty of malpractice if they didn't advise Apple to take such action.

It's hardly specific to Apple in any case -- Intel once famously tried to trademark the lower case "I", more than a decade before Apple tried the same. And for an even more egregious case, consider Louboutin's trademarking of an entire color (red, in this case) for the sole of a shoe.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 16,536   +5,332
I had a fairly expensive pair of Koss headphones maybe 30 years ago , (or more).
The "comfort level", was such that it always felt like I was purposely putting my head into a vise.