AirPods and Beats at the heart of new audio patent lawsuit against Apple

AirPods Pro and Beats Solo Pro
AirPods Pro and Beats Solo Pro (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple is being sued.
  • It's over alleged infringements of some wireless audio patents.
  • One-E-Way says culprit devices include Apple's AirPods, HomePod, and several models of Beats.

Apple is being used by One-E-Way, over claims many of Apple's own audio devices infringe on wireless audio patents.

According to AppleInsider:

A lawsuit filed by hardware vendor One-E-Way claims multiple Apple and Beats devices infringe on a family of patents covering wireless audio systems.Lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Thursday, One-E-Way's suit alleges Apple and Beats products, including AirPods and Powerbeats models, incorporate technology protected by a family of patents dating back to 2001.

The two patents, filed back in 2001, relate to a "wireless digital audio music system", and relate to how CDMA tech is used to enable "private listening" amongst other wireless devices on the same frequency in the vicinity. As AI explains:

Patents-in-suit cover a method of utilizing code division multiple access (CDMA) technology to facilitate "private listening" while other nearby wireless devices are operating on the same frequency band. Further, the IP employs techniques to addresses potential interference from other device transmissions. The technology, as well as other techniques, are in use by devices supporting the Bluetooth standard from version 2.0 through 5.2, the suit notes.

"Guilty" products include Apple's AirPods, AirPods Pro, HomePod, Powerbeats (normal and Pro), Beats Solo Pro, Solo 3, Studio 3, and even the Beats Pill+.

One-E-Way is a "minority-owned small business" based in Pasadena, California. The suit claims that business owner Earl Woolfork "first conceived of the wireless audio inventions at issue in the late 1990s while exercising outdoors at the popular Santa Monica Steps in Los Angeles." It claims Mr. Woolfork "conceived of an audio system that could wirelessly communicate high-quality audio data."

The suit seems like a bit of a stretch to say the least. Notably, it seems bizarre that given the broad terms of the suit, why Apple is the only named defender.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9