Essential Sued by Keyssa over its Wireless Connector Technology
The Essential Phone hasn’t had the easiest launch so far. It was first announced in May and intended to be released in June, but the release didn’t happen in a timely fashion, which angered buyers and potential customers. The phone was released in the United States in August at limited scale, and even now it is still available only in the United States. To add to this, the reviews of the device were mixed, with the camera quality being the target of strong criticism. The phone has had the air of being a beta device, with regular updates being pushed over the air to fix major issues with the software. Now, Essential has been sued by Keyssa, adding fuel to the fire of growing troubles it faces as a startup selling its first smartphone.
Keyssa Inc is a startup which develops semiconductor wireless technology based on millimeter-wave for data transfer. The interesting thing to note is Keyssa is backed by Tony Fadell, who was involved in the creation of the iPod, was the founder of Nest, was the CEO of the company when it was sold to Google, and was last placed in a position at Google Glass. Mr Fadell resigned from Google in June 2016.
As Essential is founded by Andy Rubin, himself an ex-Google executive and the co-founder of Android, this is something strange that we don’t often see happening in the world of smartphone lawsuits: a legal battle between two ex-Google executives.
The crux of the matter is that Keyssa is accusing Essential of theft of trade secrets in a lawsuit filed on Monday in U.S. federal court in San Francisco. The Reuters source stated that Essential said it had not yet been officially served the lawsuit and could not comment.
The reason why Keyssa is suing Essential is related to the technology that Keyssa develops, which uses millimeter-waves for wireless connection between devices without requiring Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It requires a small microchip that allows data transmission to take place. Keyssa says that it was involved in talks with Essential to use this technology on accessories for the Essential Phone, but the talks broke off without an agreement after 10 months.
Essential then used a chip from SiBEAM, which develops the same form of technology for its first wireless accessories, the 360 degree camera and the smartphone dock, both of which rely on wireless data connection. In August, the company told Reuters that it “considered Keyssa as a component supplier for Essential Phone and chose to proceed with a different supplier that could meet our performance specifications for the product.”
Keyssa, however, alleges that the final Essential phone design uses techniques developed by Keyssa to make wireless connectors perform well in the phone, and thus the design infringes on Keyssa’s trade secrets.
According to Reuters, the startup claimed that the information shared with Essential during discussions between Essential and 20 different Keyssa engineers were trade secrets. It also claimed that a non-disclosure agreement between the companies barred Essential from making commercial use of the information. Keyssa also said that it had not been compensated by Essential for use of its guidance, and attempts to resolve the matter through discussions with Essential had failed.