Dispenser who developed HearPod hearing aids sues Apple for trademark violation

By David H. Kirkwood

HONOLULU–In a match-up that might seem like David v. Goliath (or possibly Betts v. Bieber), a small company in Honolulu is taking on Apple, Inc., the world’s second largest information technology company with annual revenues of over $150 billion.

In the suit, filed March 28 in Hawaii District Court in Honolulu, Randolph Divisions and its subsidiary HearPod, Inc., accuse Apple of trademark infringement. Specifically, the plaintiffs state that Apple’s headphones, called EarPods, infringe on their HearPod® hearing aid, which was trademarked in 2005, some seven years before the EarPod came on the market.

In its complaint, Randolph Divisions contends that HearPods and EarPods not only sound alike but also are also “similar in nature in that, among other things, they are inserted into the ears of their users and are used to facilitate and enhance the transmission of sounds to the users.”

Randolph goes on to demand that Apple not only pay damages, but also cease the sale of its EarPods headphones. The plaintiff states that it has spent $625,000 promoting the HearPod since its patent was filed in Hawaii and that the device has brought in $1.7 million in sales.

HearPods, which range in price from $379 to over $1000, are shipped directly to consumers, who can order them from a web site. They are custom-programmed using an audiogram provided by the purchaser.

 

OWNED BY A HEARING INSTRUMENT SPECIALIST

Randy Wohlers
Randy Wohlers

The founder and owner of Randolph Divisions and HearPod, Inc., is William Randolph “Randy” Wohlers, BC-HIS. Wohlers, who has been fitting hearing aids for more than 38 years, is owner of the Family Hearing Aid Center in Hawaii.

Although neither party was willing to comment on the suit, Wohlers states on LinkedIn that since founding HearPod in 2002, “I have been on a quest to provide the highest level of hearing aid technology to the millions of people who cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars for the same technology.”

About a decade ago, Wohlers developed Easy-Fit, a non-custom, limited-gain, soft-shell, fully digital hearing aid, which retailed for $495 and up. He dispensed the produce in his own practice and also sold it to other dispensers.