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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