Doppler Labs got a strange sense of déjà vu when Bose announced the limited release of its hearing-assisting Hearphones late last year. The technology, the look, even the name hit a little too close to home for the headphone startup, so it filed suit earlier this month in Massachusetts, Bose’s home state.
In a 16-page filing, Doppler accuses the audio giant of “unfair and deceptive business practices,” citing a laundry list of complaints centering around the startup’s similarly named “Here Buds.” Doppler believes Bose incorporated a modified version of its well-received sound-isolating technology for the Hearphones.
It also believes that the company went to some great lengths to acquire early access to the tech, with Bose exec Chris Miller becoming one of company’s earliest backers on Kickstarter.
“[I]t appears that this was not an investment by Mr. Miller simply to get a new and differentiated type of audio product than Bose could deliver, for his personal use,” the complaint explains, “but rather an attempt to gain early access to a competitor’s technology.”
Doppler adds that Miller bought a second pair of the company’s Here Active Listening System and become one of the earliest backers of its followup Here Buds, “plac[ing] his order within minutes of the product announcement” and personally phoning the hardware startup’s customer service department to ensure that his would be one of the first to ship. “Again,” the filing adds, “on information and belief, it now appears that Mr. Miller was doing this to gain early access to a competitor’s technology.”
The suit continues, accusing Bose of meeting with Doppler under the guise of a strategic partnership in August of last year, “a sentiment Doppler Labs now surmises was disingenuous.” Shortly after that, a second meeting occurred in which Doppler disclosed a boatload of information, including its technologies and a product road map — information it says it would not have shared had it been aware of the true nature of the meetings.
It’s worth mentioning that this manner of noise-isolation certainly seemed to be in the air last year. Startup Nuheara offered something similar with its IQbuds. Same goes for Sony’s MDR-1000x — so the possibility that Bose arrived at the concept independently doesn’t seem entirely out of the question.
And while the Hearphones do indeed share some aesthetic similarities with Doppler’s offerings, they have even more in common with the company’s QuietControl 30, announced in June of last year.
Doppler is not commenting on the suit for the time being. We’re still awaiting a response from Bose.