Two giants of the headphones industry are going head to head. Bose sued Beats Electronics this past week for allegedly infringing on five of their patents related to noise-canceling headphone technology. Bose is seeking to block U.S. imports of Beats noise-canceling headphones with their lawsuit filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, DC. The company also filed a smaller lawsuit in a federal court in Wilmington, Delaware. This lawsuit makes the same claims and will likely be put on hold till the large case is solved.
The Massachusetts-based Bose had the rights from 2004 to 2013 to their inventions related to the active noise reduction technique they use in their noise canceling headphones. Originally developed for the U.S. Air Force and Army, the noise-canceling headphones work by using a microphone to detect unwanted ambient noise, and then the headphones make a second noise that cancels out the first by having sound waves of a reverse phase. Bose’s lawyers stated Beats electronics did not license Bose’s technology even though they were informed they were infringing on Bose’s patents for their active noise cancellation technique. They want to protect their proprietary technology. Bose claims that they have lost headphone sales to their competitor Beats because Beats is using their noise-canceling technology.
Beats sells headphones with an adaptive noise-canceling feature. However, many other headphone companies also produce noise-canceling headphones. It is a fairly common feature in higher end headphones. Bose has filed other patent lawsuits against other headphone makers. The California-based Beats Electronics, founded by Andre “Dr. Dre” Young and Jimmy Iovine, has released a statement that the company does not comment on pending litigation.
The time of the lawsuit likely has to do with Apple buying Beats in May for $3 billion, in its largest acquisition so far. It is not unusual for lawsuits to come after takeovers. Ilya Kazi of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys says, “When companies are in the process of being taken over they don’t want the uncertainty of litigation. So, they are more likely to be inclined to settle.” Apple’s deal to buy Beats is expected to close soon. When it does, this legal fight could be another headache for Apple which is already fighting patent battles in other arenas with Samsung and other companies. Apple has said they plan to operate Beats as a standalone brand.