Apple is countersuing Stereophone inventor and audio manufacturer Koss over a patent lawsuit it recently filed in Waco, Texas, accusing Apple and several audio companies of violating patents relating to its wireless headphone technology.
In the Koss lawsuit, originally spotted by Patently Apple, AirPods and Beats wireless headphones are accused of violating five patents relating to wireless headphone technology that Koss essentially says it pioneered in the industry. The four patents describe wireless earphones that involve a transceiver circuit, enabling a device to stream audio from a digital audio player, computer, or wireless network.
Koss said Apple was aware of these patents and met several times to discuss using them, before deciding not to license any of the company’s technology. Koss now wants an unspecified amount in compensation for the alleged infringements, “which by law cannot be less than a reasonable royalty, together with interests and costs.”
In Apple’s filing registered with the U.S. District Court for the Northern California on August 8, however, it claims Koss’ allegations are “baseless.” Moreover, it alleges that the lawsuit also breaks a written confidentiality agreement that Koss demanded and Apple ultimately agreed to in 2017.
According to the agreement, neither Apple nor Koss “would use or attempt to use any Communications [between the parties], or the existence thereof, in a litigation or any other administrative or court proceeding for any purpose.”
According to the terms of the Confidentiality Agreement, while the agreement was in force, Apple could not advise a Court of Koss’ threats to file baseless infringement claims or ask a Court to declare Apple’s rights and resolve the legal uncertainty it faced. The Confidentiality Agreement also restricted how Apple could disclose and use the existence and contents of the discussions. But the agreement also protected Apple—Koss was not permitted to later use the fact that Apple had agreed to a discussion with Koss, or the contents of the discussion, against Apple in litigation.
In other words, having enticed Apple to participate in discussions, reveal information, and forego some of its legal options, Koss could not use Apple’s participation against it as a “gotcha” to bring claims in a later litigation.
Apple now says this is precisely what Koss has done in bringing the lawsuit, thereby rendering it invalid. In addition to the alleged breach of contract, Apple also submitted documentary evidence that it says proves that it hasn’t violated any of the patents cited by Koss in its original litigation.
Apart from Apple, other companies targeted by the Koss lawsuit include Bose, JLab, Plantronics, and Skullcandy, all of which allegedly violate Koss patents related to in-ear wireless headphones technology that is now used widely in the audio market.