In the second of our five-part series on the music industry, we take a sneak peek into Skullcandy, the company that Fortune magazine called “the world’s coolest ear bud” back in 2008. In 2011, the company went ahead and purchased fellow headphone maker, Astro Studios, to give a fillip to its gaming headsets. Skullcandy holds the patent for LINK technology, the method that integrates mobile phones and music players, which is nearly a necessity for every mobile phone user.
The FIFA frenzy has finally died down, but the craze over Skullcandy’s new range of headphones is still on a high. Its unique headphone assortments designed for the players of Germany, France and England have had people grooving to rocking music for hours on end, synchronizing beats to their daily routine. From precision high to attacking bass, the headphones seem to be doing magic with every piece of music. Well, this is nothing new for Skullcandy that has been a popular sponsor of various sporting events. But this fashionable headphone maker has been making the rounds of lawyers’ offices and courts with filing and counter-filing of infringement cases, keeping the mood upbeat in the patent world.
If Fortune magazine named it the “the world’s coolest ear bud” in 2008, it was for no less reason. That was the year when Skullcandy was creating waves by filing a series of patent infringement cases in protection of its patents US7187948, which primarily aims at skiers and snowboarders, and US7395090. These patents were granted for Skullcandy’s creation of “Personal portable integrator for music player and mobile phone” and were granted in March 2007 and July 2008. The patent discloses an integrator with the functionality to receive and send signals to both the audio delivery device and the two way communication device through a headphone. This functionality of the integrator enables an user to listen to music and simultaneously talk on a cell phone.
In October 2008, Nokia, Audiovox Corp., Philips, Jabra, Samsung, Trittion, BlueAnt Wireless Pty. Ltd., Bytech NY Inc., Logic Inc., JayBird Hear LLC, Kye Systems and Hong Kong-based Modelabs Technologies were slapped with charges of infringing both or at least one of the two patents by Skullcandy. These are however just a few of the several other companies that were dragged to the courtrooms. With the exception of Nokia, all the other defendants settled the case in the court. With the headphone market hovering around the $8 billion mark in 2013, recording an average of 284 million units being shipped the world over, it is little surprise that this fragmented, yet increasingly competitive market has brands vying to keep its wings flying. Skullcandy is the least of the existing giants to stay behind, sweeping every nook and corner to keep its IP safe.
Defendants sing Skullcandy’s tune
Between May and June of 2010, Skullcandy reached settlements in a sweep with GN Netcom Inc., which sells Jabra’s headsets, in June and with Samsung Telecommunications America LLC, Tritton Inc., Kye Systems America Corp. and Plantronics Inc. in May. Skullcandy claimed that at least four products of GN Netcom infringed upon the two patents in the limelight.
The same was the case with Philips where Skullcandy claimed that four models of Philips Bluetooth stereo headphones infringed upon the two patents. And as in the cases with the other defendants, the judge dismissed the petition after Skullcandy said it reached a settlement with the opposite party in question. New York-based Audiovox followed suit and was the final defendant to settle the case.
Nokia waves peace flag, GoldLantern sees red
Unlike the other defendants, Nokia decided to take the discussion out of the courtrooms and make peace with the extreme sports headwear maker. While the initial complaint by Skullcandy demanded compensation and treble damages, besides a permanent injunction and payment of its costs and attorney fee by the accused, the settlement with Nokia included that each party would take care of its own legal expenditure. GoldLantern on the other hand was slapped with a permanent injunction barring it from infringing on the said two patents through its G-Lite range of products.
Currying over the legal hassles surrounding its two prized patents that provide the technology for every music-loving mobile user, Skullcandy continues to make music sound what it should sound like – Heavenly.
(Featured image source: http://angry-mad-sauce.deviantart.com/art/SkullCandy-261728834)