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Bose Fails in Patent-Infringement Lawsuit Against iDevice Makers

U.S. District Court rules that several small speaker dock manufacturers did not violate Bose's patent for digital audio conversion devices.

A judge has ruled against Bose in a patent infringement lawsuit (click here to read legal documents) brought by the company against several small manufacturers of speaker docks.

According to one legal firm involved in the case, the ruling could have long-term ramifications for other dock manufacturers and even Apple.

In a ruling handed down in U.S. District Court in Boston, Judge D.J. Young ruled that SDI Technologies Inc., Imation Corp., Memorex Products Inc., 3XM Consulting LLC, and D.P.I. Inc. did not violate Bose's patent for "Interactive Sound Reproducing."

imageClick image to read legal documents
Bose had originally filed the lawsuit in August 2009 claiming up to $8 million in damages. The defendants claimed the suit should be dropped because Bose's patent claim "765" covers an audio system and interface that receives audio signals from a computer and converts the digital signal to an audio signal, but not their products. In this case, Bose was equating an iPod, iPad or iPhone as a computer device.

All the defendants make speaker docks that connect with Apple iPods, iPads or iPhones. The lawsuit covered 144 products in total (143 that connect speakers with an "iDevice" using a 30 pin connector, and one product from SDI that uses AirPlay to connect.

The court did not rule the Bose patent itself is invalid, but instead ruled that the devices themselves did not infringe on the patent.

According to St. Louis-based legal firm Thompson Coburn that represented Imation and DPI, the ruling has long-term ramifications on the market as a whole.

"In our minds, the decision is a boon to Apple users and the entire audio technology industry that’s built up around Apple products," says a company spokesperson. (Lawyers on the case are not directly speaking to the media at this time.) "Bose targeted three relatively low-cost producers of speaker docks with the belief they wouldn’t fight the lawsuit and pony up a license fee to Bose. Had these smaller manufacturers folded, Bose likely would have lodged similar infringement claims against higher-cost producers, continuing until it had licensed the entire market. This decision promotes the healthy competition that keeps prices down for Apple consumers."

The spokesperson adds that Apple also risked some potential future legal exposure, as Bose could have enforced its patent against Apple, too.

Bose could not be reached for immediate comment on the ruling.

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Article Topics

News · Audio · Speakers · Apple · Bose · Legal · All topics

About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

2 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by John  on  07/14  at  03:35 PM

But does this mean hey could claim an infringement on any speaker system, after all, my cdplayer is also a computer, my PC and macs are computers and use the same device to output a digital HDMI signal that is converted to audio, an I can use Bluetooth to hook my Mac up to my parrot in my car, the jusdge was just shortsighted in ruling ipods an d music players as not computers, as they are. He should have just ruled the whole patent invalid as obvious and with prior art. I’ve been hooking speakers up to my computers for decades!

Posted by Francois  on  07/14  at  06:50 PM

Bose claimed a patent on a digital audio interface attached to a computer?  That takes a certain amount of chutzpah when ProTools did this back in the 90s, not to mention Max Matthews in the 60s.  Given the frivolous nature of the lawsuit, one could make a case for the defendants acting to recover costs.

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