Originally Posted by guerillaw
This community has added so much to my enjoyment of music and I seldom get to contribute much back. As a lawyer I will thus ignore my instinct not to get involved in legal issues I am not a party to because I think I can shed some light on some of the questions and concerns raised in this thread, in particular as it relates to our beloved hobby.
The fact of the matter is our current legal system provides anyone with enough resources the opportunity to start a lawsuit whether it is meritorious or not. That is just the reality. This has negative consequences for both folks with limited means as well as huge corporations with almost limitless funds.
Often times under resourced parties will lose cases they should when or not even be able to go to court at all because of their limitations. Parties with lots of resources, "deep pockets", oftentimes suffer in the reverse where they will be the victims of a suit simply because they have enough money to pay. For example if there is a case with a very weak argument that company X owes $1 million in attorney may take that case and sue because the company will not want to waste time and attorneys fees even if they know they can beat a weak case when they can just pay a set amount upfront and be done with it.
In that context, the true motivations for any given lawsuit are very difficult to determine. The fact is we will never know why Beats has chosen to go to court. It could be out of principle, for strategic reasons, because they think Yamaha will settle quickly, or for some reason that has yet to be revealed.
As for the merit of the lawsuit itself a lot of posts explaining the nature of patents have actually been right on point. Whether or not an individual patent is reasonable to the average person is irrelevant. Once it is filed and granted it has the force of law. If the party who owns the patent can prove that it has been violated they are entitled to damages caused by that violation.
Going forward then, the issue is not whether the patent was reasonable but rather whether BEATS can prove it was violated. If so, Yamaha will be liable. More likely though, Yamaha will let it play out for a while because it is free publicity and eventually settle the case as long as they can keep producing the headphones. For a global conglomerate like Yamaha it will be a strict cost-benefit analysis. Even if they have to pay to settle the lawsuit that money just gets added to the ledger as a cost of doing business. As long as that amount doesn't make the entire project lose money it's good business.
The implications for our hobby are very interesting. In light of the above, one could make the case that Yamaha purposely violated the patent as a sound business strategy. Why not copy the most popular product on the market? Worst case scenario they will be sued but whatever that lawsuit ultimately costs will be worth the profits they can make off the copy plus the bonus of the free publicity from the lawsuit.
On the other side of the suit BEATS is very intelligent to go after Yamaha because if they can win a case against a corporation with a lot of resources it will scare off other patent infringers and set a precedent that their design is legally protected.
The really fascinating part is that this all arises from a patent application and its acceptance several years ago. The validity of that patent for the beats Corporation (under another company at that time obviously) was decided by a random patent clerk. I would love to know whether that person even owns a pair of real headphones and has any expertise into what really makes one pair of headphones or another "unique".
If we really want to get crazy with the speculation my dream scenario would be if the suit doesn't settle and gets really heated they're going to need experts on either side. I would love to hear those depositions and testimony as to who is a supposedly expert on headphone technology. Will it be science folks from the companies? Will it be employees of other companies? Will it be experienced reviewers on this site and others? Now that would be fun.