Bose files lawsuit against Apple's Beats over noise canceling tech

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2014
Two of the biggest names in premium headphones --?Bose and soon-to-be-Apple's Beats -- are set to square off in court, with a new lawsuit filed on Friday by Bose alleging that Beats products infringe on its noise canceling patents.


Photo via Paul Stamatiou.


Bose Corporation filed the complaint against Beats Electronics, LLC and Beats Electronics International Limited in a Delaware court, asserting that Beats has infringed on Bose's "valuable patented technology for noise cancelling headphones." The lawsuit is joined by a complaint that has been filed with the International Trade Commission seeking an injunction.

Specifically, Bose accuses the Beats "Studio" and "Studio Wireless," which are advertised to feature "Adaptive Noise Cancellation," of infringing on its patents. Bose asserts to the court that "Beats knows or is willfully blind to the fact that" its products are infringing on its patents.

In the complaint, Bose states that the company pioneered the technology behind active noise reduction, which reduces unwanted noise by introducing a second sound source that interferes with it. Headphones featuring active noise reduction usually rely on a microphone to reduce background noise.

Bose has been selling its "QuietComfort" branded headphones with this technology since 2000. For the latest "QuietComfort 20" headphones, Bose says they are protected by U.S. Patent Nos. 6,717,537; 8,073,150; 8,073,151; 8,054,992; and 8,345,888. They are titled:
  • '537: "Method and Apparatus for Minimizing Latency in Digital Signal Processing Systems"
  • '150: "Dynamically Configurable ANR Signal Processing Topology"
  • '151: "Dynamically Configurable ANR Filter Block Technology"
  • '992: "High Frequency Compensating"
  • '888: "Digital High Frequency Phase Compensation"
If the lawsuit drags out, it could last until Beats officially becomes a part of Apple, which would make the lawsuit targeting Apple's bottom line. Bose is seeking damages in the suit of an unspecified amount.

Apple announced in May that it will buy Beats Electronics, which makes premium headphones, as well as the Beats Audio on-demand music streaming service for a combined $3 billion. As part of the deal, company co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will become employees of Apple.

Apple expects the deal to close in its fiscal fourth quarter, which concludes in September, pending regulatory approval. The full complaint from Bose is included below:

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 94
    mastericmasteric Posts: 89member
    Beats has been around for how long? They wait until Apple is in the process of buying Beats to sue?
  • Reply 2 of 94
    tulkastulkas Posts: 3,756member
    No one saw this coming?
  • Reply 3 of 94
    gustavgustav Posts: 825member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Masteric View Post



    Beats has been around for how long? They wait until Apple is in the process of buying Beats to sue?

    Agreed. Bose is hoping for an easy settlement from someone with deep pockets.

  • Reply 4 of 94
    bdkennedy1bdkennedy1 Posts: 1,459member

    Uhhhh, I wouldn't call Beats "premium".  Expensive, yes. Premium, no.

  • Reply 5 of 94
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 1,040member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post

     

    Uhhhh, I wouldn't call Beats "premium".  Expensive, yes. Premium, no.


     

    Um, Bose is overpriced for what you get, too.

    (Former 301 Series 3 owner, loved them back in the day when I didn't know better)

  • Reply 6 of 94
    tribalogicaltribalogical Posts: 1,182member

    I hope the timing of these lawsuits are as obvious to the courts as they are to us.

     

    Perhaps they felt that Beats was too small a player to bother with until now? Now that it has the financial backing of Apple, yes, deep pockets indeed...

     

    Why didn't they bring these suits a couple of years ago? I think Beats has been advertising noise cancellation tech for at least that long.

     

     

    Another thought... The Beats deal is NOT final yet. Perhaps the suits are less about licensing, and more about trying to prevent Beats becoming a more worthy competitor (with the powerhouse that is Apple behind them). I'm sure they are looking at Blackberry and seeing a similar potential future with Apple more seriously entering their market space...  If enough "problems" surface, Apple could reconsider...?

  • Reply 7 of 94
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,493member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tribalogical View Post

     

    Another thought... The Beats deal is NOT final yet. Perhaps the suits are less about licensing, and more about trying to prevent Beats becoming a more worthy competitor (with the powerhouse that is Apple behind them). I'm sure they are looking at Blackberry and seeing a similar potential future with Apple more seriously entering their market space...  If enough "problems" surface, Apple could reconsider...?


    The Beats deal included two departments/sections/whatever you want to call them. The Beats Music part was the lesser of the two by a wide margin. Maybe Apple could decide to split their original offer and not take Beats Music, at least until Bose backs off. Of course, Bose has to prove Beats is using their patented technology while Beats needs to prove it isn't. There usually are more than one way to do things and I can't believe Beats Music would have been so dumb as to not research the Bose patents before producing their own headphones. I see lots of headphones saying they have noise cancellation and I'm sure some of them don't use a microphone to do it. We'll see what the arm-chair lawyers come up with.

     

    changing: my bad, Beats Music is the streaming stuff so most of my comments are wrong. I'm looking for Beats Electronics patent submissions for fun

     

    update: I did a quick search using the USPTO, searching for "Beats Electronics" as the assignee and searching for "suppression", "cancellation", or "reduction" and nothing came up. Just searching for Beats Electronics found 23 patents. They do have one dealing with vibration confinement. I did a search of BeatsbyDre.com and found 36 hits for cancellation. That's where I found reduction listed. I'm not a lawyer but if they actually use the words noise cancellation or technology similar to Bose, then they could really be in trouble. I doubt Bose would want to license this technology to Beats.

  • Reply 8 of 94
    jlanddjlandd Posts: 873member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Masteric View Post



    Beats has been around for how long? They wait until Apple is in the process of buying Beats to sue?

     

    That's the way it's always done.  There are times during a clear infraction when it's not time to sue yet.  For example, if someone steals a song and puts it out as one of theirs you never sue until it's a hit, or until its arc is over even if it's years later.  Otherwise you have no damages to claim, and they won't have money to pay.   Similarly if your value of the claim is in the millions and you know the company has no net worth (though we know in this case Beats had money in the bank) you might sit tight for years just watching.  Very possible Bose has had this out in the open for a while and not filed, and approached Beats about a settlement and were blown off, either because they believed it was baseless or knew it wasn't and was going to play chicken with Bose as far as lawyers' costs vs possible recouping.

     

    I have no opinion about the validity of the claims, but you can't make any judgement about it based on the time it was filed.  No one ever sues on the day of discovery of infringement.  One year or ten years doesn't make it more or less valid or ethical.

  • Reply 9 of 94

    Bose: "Sooo.... I see you have some new, shiny, deep pockets there...  Mind if I help myself?"

  • Reply 10 of 94
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,418member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Masteric View Post



    Beats has been around for how long? They wait until Apple is in the process of buying Beats to sue?

    The curious thing is that Bose didn't wait until the deal was done, if you wanted to assume the deeper-pockets rationale.

    Perhaps it's that Bose wants to scotch that deal and interpose themselves in a partnership with Apple?

  • Reply 11 of 94
    ericblrericblr Posts: 172member
    masteric wrote: »
    Beats has been around for how long? They wait until Apple is in the process of buying Beats to sue?

    I was just about to say the same thing.
  • Reply 12 of 94
    Here we go again. Another war against apple. Stop hating.
  • Reply 13 of 94
    addicted44addicted44 Posts: 826member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by PScooter63 View Post

     

     

    Um, Bose is overpriced for what you get, too.

    (Former 301 Series 3 owner, loved them back in the day when I didn't know better)




    This is just wrong.

     

    Yes, Bose does not deliver the same sounds quality as other speaker companies in the same price range.

    However, no one can deliver the combination of sound quality, design, and most importantly size (their speakers are amazing for their size) that Bose does. And this is largely because of the many patents they have developed and own.

     

    I have never purchased a Bose product, but I have to give credit where its due.

     

    I wouldn't be surprised if Beats infringes Bose's patents. Its not likely that they have any R&D of their own (unlike all the other speaker companies in this business).

  • Reply 14 of 94
    sog35 wrote: »
    Hardly speakers/headphones/subwoofers are premium if you can find it at Best Buy

    Andrew Jones designed Pioneers are about the only exception.


    Anyway, you know what they say: No highs? No lows? Must be Bose!
  • Reply 15 of 94
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member

    I actually bought two pairs of headphones last month, an Audio Technica headphone and a nice AKG headphone, Beats doesn't interest me at all. Sound trumps fashion and trends any day of the week, if you ask for my humble opinion.

     

    Since the Beats deal seems to be a done deal, I'm not going to bother complaining about it that much anymore, but I will say that I'm still not crazy about it.

     

    I also think that the IBM and Apple partnership trumps Beats, and overall, Apple is doing more right things than bad things, so I'm not mad.

  • Reply 16 of 94
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member

    Tim, time to renegotiate that Beats purchase price before it's too late.

  • Reply 17 of 94
    Bose is trying to fix it's low income by suing a company that will potentially have very deep products. Be scared of the lawyers Bose, be very afraid.
  • Reply 18 of 94
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

     

    Tim, time to renegotiate that Beats purchase price before it's too late.


     

    Apple needs to have some kind of clause in the contract, that Beats is liable for all copyright infringements and any other lawsuits that might happen, relating to all Beats operations and products before the date that Apple officially buys them.

  • Reply 19 of 94
    woochiferwoochifer Posts: 379member

    Will be interesting to see how Beats/Apple responds. Will they settle or will they fight like a rabid street dog?

     

    Bose has a history of trying to patent commonplace approaches to audio product design that had already existed long before their products came onto the market, and suing smaller audio companies that use these long-standing approaches. They also have whole portfolio of Rube Goldberg-like signal processing approaches that produce very marginal differences in the sound quality. For example, the Audiopilot noise compensation on some of their car audio systems is just overengineered garbage -- complexity for complexity's sake. A simple auto-leveling function would have been far more effective.

     

    I suspect that buried in the pile of complexity (and likely patents) that Bose designs into their headphones, there's plenty of prior art. In the grand scheme of consumer electronics, the noise-canceling headphones market is not that huge and Bose actually got into the consumer market when their designs could not meet Dept. of Defense specifications.

     

    If Beats/Apple wants to fight this, they should round up every professional aviation headset ever made and rip into the design approaches that those products used. Bose might be looking for a payday, but unlike Bose's other legal targets, Apple is not some sparsely funded family business. And they have deep enough pockets to dig up the kind of prior art that can invalidate the kinds of patents that Bose has been granted.

  • Reply 20 of 94
    jlanddjlandd Posts: 873member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gustav View Post

     

    Agreed. Bose is hoping for an easy settlement from someone with deep pockets.


     

    It won't be any easier to collect from Apple than it would have beat from Beats before Apple.  The top shelf law firms of either would be arguing the same points to dismiss it.   Having deep pockets doesn't translate into easy settlements, especially if it will affect arguments in future headphone patent technology cases for them.

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