Apple may be facing an all-out legal assault from Nokia right now, but the not-so-little company from Cupertino is hearing the sound of victory in another courtroom battle.
A federal appeals court, according to Reuters and other sources, has just slapped down a class-action lawsuit that suggested Apple's to blame for "possible hearing loss" caused by iPod use. The suit said the very design of Apple's trademark ear buds was putting users' hearing in danger. It had previously been rejected by a lower court in California.
The Apple iPod Lawsuit
Here's where the iPod lawsuit came up short: The plaintiffs -- identified as Joseph Birdsong and Bruce Waggoner -- never actually claimed they had suffered hearing damage; they just said that someone potentially could. Because of the risk, they said, Apple should provide better headphones, better disclosures, and -- oh yeah -- award them some monetary damages, too.
Needless to say, the judge didn't buy it.
"The plaintiffs do not allege the iPods failed to do anything they were designed to do nor do they allege that they, or any others, have suffered or are substantially certain to suffer inevitable hearing loss or other injury from iPod use," the ruling is quoted as saying. "At most, the plaintiffs plead a potential risk of hearing loss not to themselves, but to other unidentified iPod users."
Hang on -- I think I hear the sound of someone's legal fees swirling down the drain.
Apple's Legal Legacy
Apple's no stranger to legal challenges; in fact, this very case has been circling the courts since 2006. The suit previously looked to an iPod software update to help fight the iGuys. According to reports published in March of '06, the plaintiffs tried to make the case that because Apple had released an iPod patch that added maximum-volume-setting functionality, it had somehow confirmed that its product was flawed and unsafe.
(The European Union, incidentally, has had decibel restrictions in place for music players for several years now. Regulators even lowered the level this past fall, requiring manufacturers to set a default max volume level of 80 decibels.)
Volume's not the only issue for which Apple frequently comes under fire -- there's also fire itself. Remember the whole "exploding iPod" phenomenon? And Apple's been sued more times than I can count for issues related to iPhone speed and reliability. (To be fair, we did hear about those lawsuits far more frequently before AT&T earned its status as America's official mobile punching bag.)
Of course, Apple isn't merely a target; it expends plenty of legal energy on the offense, too. The company's sued everyone under the sun for using logos that bear even the slightest resemblance to its shiny silver symbol. I heard they even tried to sue God over the similarity of the apple fruit, though I'm pretty sure that case never made it to court.
At least when it comes to iPods and hearing, the onus is off of Apple's shoulders for now. That should clear up room in the company's legal calendar for the next batch of lawsuits sure to be filed any day now.
This story, "Now Hear This: Apple Wins Appeal in iPod Hearing Loss Lawsuit" was originally published by PCWorld.