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Apple & Koss legal battle over AirPods ends in deal

Koss and Apple have ended dueling lawsuits over alleged AirPods patent infringement, with both asking the court to dismiss the legal action.

In 2020, headphone and audio accessory manufacturer Koss attempted to take on Apple by claiming the Cupertino tech giant infringed on several patents it holds. Two years later, the two sides have decided to stand down from litigious conflict.

A "Joint Stipulation of Dismissal" filing from the legal teams of both Apple and Koss at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on July 23 states that the parties have "resolved all matters in controversy between them." Since the two are in agreement, Koss and Apple say that claims against each company should be dismissed.

Claims by Koss against Apple are to be dismissed "with prejudice" while claims by Apple against Koss are to be dismissed "without prejudice." In short, Koss cannot refile the same claim against Apple in that court, but Apple still has the potential to do so with its own.

As part of the dismissal, Koss and Apple say they want to bear their own costs, expenses, and attorney's fees. A proposed order is also provided in the filing for signing by U.S. District Judge Alan D. Albright.

Wireless patent tech and confidentiality issues

The lawsuit was initially filed in July 2020, with Koss claiming multiple patents were infringed. The patents covered wireless earphones using a transceiver circuit, enabling for the streaming of audio from a digital audio player, computer, or wireless network.

Koss said these covered products like AirPods, AirPods Pro, and wireless Beats by Dre products.

Another patent covered configuring wireless devices to work on a wireless network, which was allegedly violated by the HomePod and Apple Watch.

The patents were all granted to Koss in 2019, occurring nearly three years after AirPods first hit the market and some 12 years after Apple released its first iPhone Bluetooth headset.

In response, August of 2020 saw Apple make its own filing calling Koss' claims baseless, as well as adding a claim that Koss breached a confidentiality agreement from 2017. The contract, dating back to August 2017, was made at a time when the two firms were in licensing talks, and prevented the use of any licensing communications from being used for litigation.

While Apple wanted discussions "without restriction," Koss insisted on a written confidentiality agreement. Apple determined that the contract not only prevented Apple from using discussions against Koss in a court of law, but also stopped Koss from doing the same, an agreement Koss seemingly broke.

It is unclear exactly what was determined between the two companies to cause the joint stipulation of dismissal, nor if there are any other elements outside the lawsuit that contributed to the decision.

Neither Koss nor Apple have publicly commented on the dropped legal action at the time of publication.