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Beats Sues Yamaha Over Headphone Design, Patents

Los Angeles – Beats Electronics filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging that three Yamaha Pro series headphones infringe on the company’s trade dress and two patents.

 Beats said it had notified Yamaha Corp. of America (YCA) that the Pro headphones violated its patents and trade dress but said Yamaha continued to manufacture and sell the infringing models.

“A side-by-side comparison of the infringing headphones and an exemplary Beats headphone evidences the confusing similarity between defendant’s headphones and the Beats products,” the lawsuit said. Yamaha ads, “which include references to either Beats or Dr. Dre and have been displayed by defendant or its affiliate, further show defendant’s intention to copy the distinctive design of Beats’ headphones and/or its intention to trade off of the goodwill associated with Beats’ product appearance,” Beats said in the lawsuit.

 Beats wants a permanent injunction banning the sale of the headphones and damages.

Tom Sumner, YCA senior VP, said it was too early to comment about the suit because the company was served with the suit on Feb. 7 and has just turned the suit over to Yamaha Corp. of Japan, which is responsible for Yamaha’s intellectual property.

That property includes “the iconic Yamaha tuning fork logo, which is prominently displayed on the Pro-Series headphones,” he said.  Yamaha began using the tuning fork as our corporate mark in 1898, he noted.

The three Pro series headphones were launched last August at a suggested $199, $299 and $399.

In Oct. 2011, Beats settled a design-patent case that it brought against Fanny Wang over that company’s headphones.