When you are the new kid on the block with one of the most innovative devices on the market under your belt, chances are there will be a few bumps in the road along the way. Andy Rubin, Android co-founder and creator of the Essential smartphone, is learning this as he embarks on what could be a long line of success for both himself and his company.
Keyssa Inc, backed by iPod co-creator Tony Fadell is suing Essential Products Inc, the startup launched by Rubin, for allegedly stealing trade secrets during the production of Essential’s flagship device. The suit was filed by Fadell’s advisory council today to the U.S. federal court in San Francisco, although Essential has said that it has not officially been served so it cannot comment on the subject just yet.
What’s with the suit against Andy Rubin?
When the Essential Phone was released last month, it was one of the first devices on the market to include a wireless connector that is used to work with a camera accessory, which comes separately, but was released at the same time as the phone. Fadell claims that the technology Essential used for the connector is actually copied from his company’s own findings.
Keyssa has been working hard on the same technology since 2009. The company created a chip for mobile phones to transfer large amounts of data without using either USB or Wi-Fi connections. In August, Keyssa said it was partnering with Samsung, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, which owns Foxconn, and other huge companies to make the technology a standard feature on cellular devices.
Fadell says Andy Rubin and his team were in talks with Keyssa for about 10 months prior to designing the Essential Phone. During that time, a lot of information was transferred between the companies, and Fadell believes some of that information was used to create the wireless connector.
It’s not just the connector, either. “Keyssa alleged that despite Essential’s use of a different chip, the final Essential Phone design incorporates many of the techniques developed by Keyssa to make wireless connectors function well in a phone, from antenna designs to methods for testing phones on the manufacturing line,” according to Reuters.
So what could happen to Andy Rubin’s creation?
For starters, Fadell’s company is seeking compensation. “Keyssa has not been compensated for Essential’s use of this guidance and know-how,” Keyssa said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “We are pursuing this action because our attempts to resolve this matter through discussions with Essential have not been successful.
Essential won’t go quietly though. In August, the company claimed 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.”
I wouldn’t expect the Essential Phone – much less the company – to suffer too much due to this lawsuit, but the price tag could add up pretty quickly when you consider the seriousness of using another company’s idea for a product.