Koss Sues a Slew of Wireless Headphone Makers

Koss Corporation  has rebooted its sole litigation campaign, dormant since March 2017, with five new Western District of Texas complaints, one filed against each of Apple (6:20-cv-00665), Bose (6:20-cv-00661), PEAG  (d/b/a JLAB Audio) (6:20-cv-00662), Plantronics ( Polycom) (6:20-cv-00663), and Skullcandy  (6:20-cv-00664). The plaintiff asserts six patents (in overlapping sets), new to litigation, broadly directed to wireless communication between devices. The defendants are accused of infringement through the provision of wireless devices, including wireless earphones, headphones, speakers, and smart watches.

Koss pleads that it was formed as a "television rental company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin" in 1953, with its founder John C. Koss inventing "the world's first SP/3 Stereophone as part of a "private listening system" that would enable the wearer to listen to a phonograph without disturbing others in the vicinity". The plaintiff continues its story into the 2000s through what it calls the "Striva" project, through which it purportedly developed "the first ever True Wireless headphones" out of "Koss's recognition that wireless headphones were going to be an integral part of peoples' audio consumption". It alleges development of "different headphones for different applications", also pleading that it developed but did not market a smart speaker that could be used to control other connected devices, "a precursor to the presently understood Internet of Things".

Five of the six patents that Koss asserts in its latest set of complaints (10,206,025; 10,368,155; 10,469,934; 10,491,982; 10,506,325) generally relate to connecting wireless earphones to a "digital audio player", while one patent (10,298,451) generally relates to wirelessly connecting devices over an ad hoc "wireless infrastructure network". All six belong to the same 25-member family having issue dates ranging from May 2012 through June 2020, all with earliest estimated priority in April 2008. Koss asserted two earlier patents in the family (8,655,420; 9,438,987), both generally related to wireless earphones, against Muzik in a May 2016 Southern District of Florida case that ended in settlement shortly after an answer was filed.

Apple is accused of infringing five of the six patents: the '451 patent, through provision of the HomePod wireless speaker and Apple Watch smart watch; the '025 and '934 patents, through the provision of wireless earphones and headphones, including Apple AirPods and certain Beats by Dr. Dre products; and the '982 and '325 patents, through the provision of Apple AirPods. Koss alleges that it put Apple on notice of infringement of an earlier member of the same family (9,729,959) in September 2017 and that the two parties met four times over the years since, Koss alleging that it "provided Apple with claim charts identifying how Apple infringed certain of Koss's patents, including each of the Patents-in-Suit".

Bose is targeted with three patents, Koss charging the defendant with infringement of the '025, '155, and '934 patents through the provision of wireless earphones and headphones, including the SoundSport, 700, and QC 35.

PEAG is accused of infringing four of Koss's patents: the '025, '155, and '982 patents through the provision of wireless earphones, including the JBud Air Executive; and the '325 patent, likewise through the provision of wireless earphones, this time including the JBud Epic and JBud Airsport.

Koss charges Plantronics with infringement of four patents as well: the '025, '155, and '934 patents through the provision of wireless earphones, including the Plantronics BackBeat PRO 5100; and the '325 patent, through the provision of wireless earphones, including the Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3200.

Finally, Skullcandy has been hit with five of the six asserted patents, having been accused of infringing each through the provision of certain wireless headphones: as to the '025 patent, Koss calling out the Sesh TWS; as to the '155 and '934 patents, the Crusher; as to the '982 patent, the Indy Fuel; and as to the '325 patent, the Push Ultra.

Koss—which is represented in litigation by K&L Gates LLP—alleges that it sent each of Bose, PEAG, Plantronics, and Skullcandy an early July letter apprising them of their alleged infringement. Prosecution of multiple applications related to the same 25-member family from which the asserted patents were drawn continues before the USPTO. 7/22, Western District of Texas.

Originally published by RPX Corporation, August 2020

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