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Apple returns fire in Koss AirPods patent infringement battle

Apple is firing back against Koss's patent lawsuit with a filing of its own, with Apple claiming not only that the personal audio manufacturer's claims are baseless, but also that it broke a confidentiality agreement.

In July, Koss filed in the U.S. District Court in Waco, Texas accusing Apple of infringing several patents it owns relating to wireless earphone technology, and that selling AirPods, AirPods Pro, and Beats by Dre products is a violation. Furthermore, the HomePod and Apple Watch were also targeted under another patent relating to configuring wireless devices to work on a wireless network.

In a new filing with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California San Jose Division, Apple one-ups Koss' five-count lawsuit with one containing six counts. While the first details an alleged breach of contract, the other five each declare Apple didn't infringe on each of five patents that Koss is using in its own complaint.

According to the filing, the breach of contract over a confidentiality agreement relates to a document dating back to August 6, 2017, a time when the two companies were in licensing talks. Under the agreement, "the parties agree not to use or attempt to use any Communications, or the existence thereof, in a litigation or any other administrative or court proceeding for any purpose."

It is claimed that Koss sought out Apple for licensing discussions, as well as insisting on a written confidentiality agreement, while Apple requested discussions be made "without restriction." Apple argues that the agreement protected both sides, as while it stopped Apple from using the contents of discussions against Koss, it also prevented Koss from using Apple's participation in discussions and sharing of information against it as a "gotcha" for later litigation claims.

"That, however, is exactly what Koss did," the filing suggests.

Koss' claims in the first filing includes references to how it met with Apple multiple times over infringement allegations, which Apple believes is itself an infringement of the confidentiality agreement.

The other five counts for non-infringement of individual patents, argue that Apple's products do not infringe the patents for a few reasons. For the second count affecting patent number 10,206,025, Apple leans on how the AirPods do not "initiate transmission of a request" to any "remote, network-connected server," as it only does so to a local device.

The third count, covering patent number 10,298,451, again dismisses the threat against the HomePod, for the same reason that it doesn't send credential data to "one or more host servers." It is a similar story for patent number 10,469,934 for the fourth count affecting AirPods.

The fifth count for patent 10,491,982 is fought due to AirPods not having an "ear canal portion that is inserted into an ear of the user when worn." Lastly, the sixth count for patent 10,506,325 is denounced by Apple due to it describing a "curved hanger bar [that] rests upon an upper external curvature of an ear of the user behind an upper portion of an auricula of the ear of the user."

In its prayer for relief, Apple asks the court to stop Koss from using the discussions raised under the confidentiality agreement in any lawsuit, to declare Apple doesn't infringe on the identified claims, a recovery of "reasonable attorneys' fees," and any other relief. A trial by jury is demanded.