By now, you must know that Monster Cable has a rather terrible reputation for threatening and suing
all sorts of other companies over intellectual property issues -- often, it seems, with very little merit (remember when they went after "Monster Golf"? good times...). The latest is that Monster Cable, along with Beats Electronics, are going after competitor Fanny Wang Headphones, claiming both patent and trade dress infringement
, because Fanny Wang made headphones that have some similarities in style. The patent (D552,077
), by the way, is not a utility patent but a design patent, which is very narrowly focused.
In reading through the actual lawsuit (embedded below), the basic complaint appears to be that Fanny Wang's headphones look pretty similar to the Beats headphones -- but that's how competition works. Beats/Monster seem to take particular umbrage to the fact that all over their website Fanny Wang compares their headphones to Beats and gently chides Beats for not being the same quality. Again, this is how competition works. You see what works and you build something better. In fact, this point seems to undermine Beats/Monsters whole case: since Fanny Wang is making pretty clear that its products are different
than Beats'. The response from Monster/Beats should be to keep building something better as well.
As you'd expect, Beats/Monster also demand all sorts of things (treble damages, destruction of all product, etc.). The complaint also points out that Fanny Wang is planning to be presenting its headphones at CES in early January, implicitly asking the court to stop Fanny Wang from appearing at the show. Remember, kids, the lesson of the day is "why compete, if you can have the government block your competition?"
Not surprisingly, Fanny Wang is using this as a chance to mock Monster for its litigious history and also for promoting its own product. The company's letter in response to the lawsuit (also embedded below) is relatively amusing, mocking the company for not even trying out their headphones to find out about the superior sound quality:
In short, Fanny Wang has no desire to infringe on your patents or trade dress or be associated with Monster’s sound quality. Instead, Fanny Wang desires to compete by building a superior product marketed under our different and innovative brand: Fanny Wang. In fact, the comparisons that you make reference to in your complaint and letter, clearly demonstrate Fanny Wang’s desire to differentiate itself from Monster & Beats products by identifying differences and allowing the consumer to make its own determinations. Such passing references to competitors are routine in the marketplace and are clearly allowed under both state and federal trademark laws.
Separately, the company notes that tons of vendors in the space have similarly designed headphones because that's the trend in the marketplace
. It also mocks Beats/Monster for claiming that the packaging of the two sets of headphones are the same by stating: "Have you even looked at our site?" and posting the following comparison: