Klipsch, Monoprice settle patent dispute over speakers

Klipsch sued Monoprice in March for selling home theater speakers that were virtually identical to ones made by its Energy brand. Terms of the settlement weren't disclosed.

Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
2 min read
Monoprice's home theater speakers, on the left, are virtually identical to the top-rated Energy Take Classic 5.1, on the right, in all ways but one: the price. The Monoprice system sells for $150 less. Sarah Tew/CNET

The legal spat between discount retailer Monoprice and audio system maker Klipsch ended almost as soon as it started.

In March, Klipsch accused Monoprice of patent infringement for selling a Monoprice-branded home theater speaker system that was virtually identical to top-rated system made by Klipsch subsidary Audio Products International, under its Energy brand. Friday morning, Klipsch lawyer, Dean E. McConnell, told CNET via email that the dispute had been resolved on Thursday.

"The litigation between Klipsch Group, Audio Products, and Monoprice has been amicably resolved," McConnell wrote. "The terms and conditions of the settlement are confidential and I have no further comment."

A Monoprice spokesman did not return a request for comment. We will update this story if we get a response.

Klipsch had sought in its suit to prevent Monoprice from selling the speakers. It also asked for triple damages from the company, an amount that it said would be determined at trial.

The dispute centered on Monoprice's 5.1 Hi-Fi Home Theater Satellite Speakers & Subwoofer system. The system, which sold for $249, was a near replica of Energy's $399 Take Classic 5.1 system, a setup that CNET's Matt Moskovciak described as "the best budget speaker system we've reviewed."

CNET's Geoffrey Morrison tested each speaker system and tore them apart, finding both almost identical as well, right down to the frequency response, the connectors, and even the screws. The manual for the Monoprice system includes a typo about "connecting your Energy subwoofer."

Monoprice CEO Ajay Kumar, interviewed in March before CNET became aware of the suit, said the company "never purposely" sells products that infringe on another company's patents. Monoprice subsequently declined to comment on the litigation.

Shortly after Klipsch sued, the speaker system became unobtainable from Monoprice's Web site. The company listed the speakers as on backorder, and the date for their "estimated arrival time" slipped into May. The speakers are still on the site, but the arrival date is now July 3.

And while the company has not responded to requests about the availability of the speakers, a Monoprice tech support associate told a customer in a recent email exchange that "this item has been discontinued."