Hearing Device Patent Activity for May and June 2013

Patent reform just got sexy in the US Congress as politicians tout “innovation, not litigation, [a]s a bipartisan goal.”  Hearing Economics did some foreshadowing of this trend based on recent patent fights in our little industry that didn’t go so well.  New hearing device patent approvals for the last two months are shown in the table below.  Click on Mar-April 2013Jan-Feb 2013 and  Nov-Dec 2012 for previous lists.

Three Big Issues

  1. There is a huge backlog of applications.  The pipeline has been reduced to around 600,000, but the process remains painfully slow.  Hearing aid innovations are not exceptions.  As one reader of this column commented:   

    I find it amazing that many of these patents were filed over 4 years ago… Just goes to show how slow the process is, even for the Big Guns like Widex and Starkey.  

  2. The patent office needs more funding to handle the onslaught of applications  and ensure that they receive thorough scrutiny prior to approval.  
  3. Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), aka Patent Trolls, are turning the whole process upside down with an avalanche of expensive, frivolous lawsuits.  As a result, the Trolls are coming under investigation by the FTC.  As their name suggests, PAEs constantly troll the vast patent world for the dual purposes of  scarfing up technology patents and then suing manufacturers/designers of  devices/software for patent infringement.  In the words of Edith Ramirez, FTC chairwoman:  

A central empirical question, which we will continue to examine, is whether P.A.E.’s encourage invention or instead hamper innovation and competition.


Better, faster patent analysis and approval are good remedies, although the cost of funding such a massive enterprise may price individuals out of the market.

The trolls are a different, much bigger form of Supply Side Shock, shifting manufacturers’ Supply curve to the left, meaning Willing to Sell decreases for a given price.  This is not an economically desirable effect — prices tend to rise or consumption goes down.  In economic parlance, trolls create market inefficiencies.  Down with trolls!

Industries, countries and global regions have their own remedies for fighting trolls in order to protect resources and ensure stability, especially of prices.  The main remedy is to circle the wagons and form a membership organization to share resources, not unlike OPEC’s response to giant multinational companies in the 1960s.  Note that this remedy is another form of market inefficiency because Price and Quantity Supplied are controlled by suppliers of one type or another.  No one said troll-fighters were pretty, or even much different looking than trolls.

The hearing aid industry has a remedy organization, known as Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Patent Partnership K/S HIMPP, which filed its first patent application in 1984 and now owns 66 patents in eight patent classes.  It keeps a low profile.  More on HIMPP in a later post.

The List

The list is populated by the Usual Suspects of global corporate competitors.  But Daniel Schumaier, President of Ear Technology, once again makes the list as the sole individual seeking and obtaining a hearing device patent on every list we’ve compiled for 2013. Go Dan, the Man against the Machine!


DescriptionPatent NumberAssigneeFiledIssued
Methods and Systems for Reducing an Effect of Ambient Noise within an Auditory Prosthesis System8422706Advanced Bionics, LLC (Valencia, CA)9/10/20104/16/2013
Method and Apparatus for Modular Hearing Aid8428282Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)9/29/20084/23/2013
Hearing instrument using receivers with different performance characteristics8433072Oticon A/S (Smorum, Denmark) and Bernafon AG (Berne, Switzerland)11/07/20084/30/2013
Bone Conduction Devices Generating Tangentially-Directed Mechanical Force Using a Linearly Moving Mass8433081Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)3/05/20094/30/2013
Calibrated hearing aid tuning appliance8437486Dan Wiggins (Edmonds, Wash.) and Donald L Bowie (Burien, Wash.)4/14/20105/07/2013
Dual Microphone EAS System That Prevents Feedback8437859Advanced Bionics, LLC (Valencia, CA)9/03/20095/07/2013
System and Method for Three Dimensional Reconstruction of an Anatomical Impression8437009Siemens Medical Instruments Pte. Ltd. (Singapore, SG)


Hearing Aid8442253Brainstorm Audio LLC (Dover, Del.)1/20/20125/14/2013
Hearing aid system comprising a matched filter and a measurement method8442247Bernafon AG (Berne, Switzerland)12/10/20085/14/2013
Electromagnet battery handler8438723William A Reinman (Modesto, Calif.) and Edward S. Heyman (Modesto, Calif.)4/01/20115/14/2013
Systems and methods for managing wireless communication links for hearing assistance devices8442248Starkey Laboratories Inc. (Eden Prairie, Minn.)


Hearing aid device and hearing aid method8442246Panasonic Corp. (Osaka, Japan)4/26/20105/14/2013
Hearing device with automatic algorithm switching8442245Siemens Medical Instruments Pte. Ltd. (Singapore)12/22/20095/14/2013
Hearing aid and method for controlling signal processing in a hearing aid8442250Widex A/S (Lynge, Denmark)9/26/20085/14/2013
Behind-the-ear hearing aid with interchangeable ear hook and ear tube8442252Audiotoniq Inc. (Austin, Texas)


Hearing Aid8442253Brainstorm Audio LLC (Dover, Del.)1/20/20125/14/2013
Electromagnet battery handler8438723William A Reinman (Modesto, Calif.) and Edward S. Heyman (Modesto, Calif.)4/01/20115/14/2013
Electroneural Interface for a Medical Implant8447409Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)10/15/20095/21/2013
Entrainment Avoidance with a Gradient Adaptive Lattice Filter8452034Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)


Real ear measurement system using thin tube8452021Starkey Laboratories, Inc. (Eden Prairie, MN)


Measurement of Transmitter/Receiver Separation8452412Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)


Electrode Assembly for a Stimulating Medical Device8452411Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)


Lead Insertion Tools8452421Advanced Bionics, LLC (Valencia, CA)


Environment adaptive type hearing aid8457335Panasonic Corp. (Osaka, Japan)


Open ear canal hearing aid with adjustable non-occluding securing mechanism8457337Aria Innovations Inc. (Palo Alto, Calif.)7/21/20106/04/2013
Contamination Resistant Ports for Hearing Devices8457336InSound Medical, Inc. (Newark, CA)


Anchoring Element8454668Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)5/21/20086/04/2013
Hearing aid and method of controlling volume of hearing aid8462957Panasonic Corp. (Osaka, Japan)2/17/20106/11/2013
Shared coil for inductive charging and hearing-aid-compliance requirements in mobile phones8462968Research in Motion Ltd. (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada


Ear Fitting8462973L. Gore & Associates Inc. (Newark, Del.)


Systems and methods for own voice recognition with adaptations for noise robustness8462969Siemens Audiologische Technik GmbH (Erlangen, Germany)


Apparatus and method for connecting a hearing aid to hearing aid test equipment8467537Audiology Innovations Pty Ltd (Australia)


Canal hearing device with disposable battery module8467556Ihear Medical Inc. (Oakland, Calif.)


Hearing aid system comprising a receiver in the ear and a system for identification of the type of receiver


8467553Bernafon AG (Berne, Switzerland)


Method, hearing device and configuration for calibrating an acoustic tuning system846755Siemens Medical Instruments PTE, Ltd.


Method for monitoring a hearing device and hearing device with self-monitoring function8467555Phonak AG


Tinnitus rehabilitation device and method8465411Neuromonics Pty Ltd


Audio processing8472655Koninkluke Philips Electronics N.V.


Observer-based cancellation system for implantable hearing instruments8472654Cochlear Limited (Macquarie University, NSW, AU)


Preprogrammed hearing assistance device with audiometric testing capability8472634Daniel R Schumaier (Elizabethton, Tenn)



  editor’s note:  The Patent Series is updated every two months.  Click links for patents approved in Jan/Feb 2014Nov/Dec 2013September/October 2013Jul/Aug 2013May/Jun 2013Mar/Apr 2013Jan/Feb 2013Nov/Dec 2012

photo courtesy of nytimes

About Holly Hosford-Dunn

Holly Hosford-Dunn, PhD, graduated with a BA and MA in Communication Disorders from New Mexico State, completed a PhD in Hearing Sciences at Stanford, and did post-docs at Max Planck Institute (Germany) and Eaton-Peabody Auditory Physiology Lab (Boston). Post-education, she directed the Stanford University Audiology Clinic; developed multi-office private practices in Arizona; authored/edited numerous text books, chapters, journals, and articles; and taught Marketing, Practice Management, Hearing Science, Auditory Electrophysiology, and Amplification in a variety of academic settings.