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Knowles wants to ban alleged knockoff/cloned BAs in the US
Mycroft Holmes
сообщение 2.12.2019, 12:25
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Knowles wants to ban alleged knockoff/cloned BAs in the US


Knowles files claim with US Trade Commission to ban Bellsing Balanced Armatures accused of using trade secrets by former employees, along with a Cease & Desist of the import/sale/assembly/service of products containing them in the US, including Campfire Solaris, FiiO F9, Fidue A73, InEarz P300, etc

TL:DR of TL:DR: Knowles wants to ban alleged knockoff/cloned BAs in the US

TL:DR Former employees who joined Bellsing, are accused of using trade secrets to manufacture almost identical BA units to undercut Knowles.
Some of those employees have been previously found guilty of stealing Knowles equipment and misappropriation of trade secrets and breaking non-competition agreements.
The audio companies are accused because they are working "closely" with Bellsing, and because of the low cost, similarity and history of the former employees, they should have known that the BA units were made using trade secrets.
They have not responded to Knowles notices explicitly describing this either.

The complaint notice is available here

The full complaint (91 pages) is available here and supporting documents here, however you will need to register to see them.

A (looong) summary: (Quotes are directly from the complaint)

The main accused is a Ryan Li, who worked as a supervisor of Advanced manufacturing at knowles in china from 2004 to 2011


"while Mr. Li was still employed by Knowles, Mr. Li through proxies formed Hearonic in order to produce competing balanced armature devices"

In suzhou, same location as the Knowles factory.

"...attempted to sell balanced armature devices in direct competition with the Knowles product line for which Mr. Li was employed by Knowles as a supervisor of advanced manufacturing"

He left Knowles, and Hearonic in 2011.

Knowles took him to court in China and was found guilty

"to have violated his duties to Knowles with respect to Hearonic."


Mr Li founded Vantron.

"Mr. Li began working with Ken Chai, a then-current employee of Knowles, to manufacture and sell balanced armature receivers."

"... was then employed by Knowles as Principal Equipment Development Engineer in Knowles’s Suzhou facility."

"Mr. Chai’s senior position at Knowles gave him privileged and substantial access to Knowles’s confidential manufacturing documents and information."

"Individuals and/or entities associated with Vantron misappropriated large quantities of production equipment from Knowles’s Suzhou factory, in order to set up manufacturing lines at Vantron for the production of balanced armature receivers."

"Specifically, Vantron produced balanced armature receivers by utilizing numerous pieces of misappropriated Knowles production equipment."

"Knowles pursued litigation in China against Mr. Li, Mr. Chai, a third individual, and Vantron, with respect to the theft of Knowles trade secrets relating to Knowles’s balanced armature receiver products and the manufacturing thereof."

"The trial court in China found Vantron liable on December 28, 2016, with certain of the actual stolen manufacturing equipment eventually being returned to Knowles."

Vantron ceased manufacturing.


Mr Li joined Bellsing as Chairman.

"In or around June 2017—not long after the Chinese court ruled against Vantron, Ken Chai, and Ryan Li—Bellsing is believed to have expanded and/or launched its factory in Suzhou."

"Bellsing and Ryan Li designated Ken Chai as the general manager for that factory"

"In addition to Ryan Li and Ken Chai, Bellsing has hired numerous other former Knowles employees with access to and understanding of Knowles’s confidential information and the Knowles Balanced Armature Trade Secrets."

"Bellsing’s balanced armature devices have substantial physical, electrical, and acoustical similarities to those of Knowles, and many of the Bellsing balanced armature devices appear to be designed as drop-in replacements for Knowles products. "

"It is highly unlikely that in such a short time Bellsing could have designed balanced armature devices with performance specifications comparable to Knowles’s devices without Bellsing using confidential information developed by an established manufacturer of balanced armature devices like Knowles."

(Personally, without the other evidence, a newcomer could make a product just as good)

"Third parties have noted that “the products offered by Bellsing seem like exact clones of Knowles products that have been on the market for some time.”"

"Bellsing’s website itself shows an image of what appears to be a machine embodying Knowles’s adjustment trade secrets"

"The pictured workstation appears nearly identical to a Knowles proprietary adjustment workstation that embodies and utilizes Knowles’s adjustment trade secrets, was formerly utilized in Knowles’s Suzhou facility, and was shown in photographs of Vantron’s facility."


Formed in 2017 in the same location as Bellsing, Mingshi supplies automation equipment to Bellsing.

5 out of 8 Mingshi employees are former Knowles employees, including a "Senior Tooling Designer" and a "Annealing Process Engineer "

Knowles believes the equipment is physically very similar to its own and accuses the emoyees of having used trade secrets.

Further acts by former employees

"Separately, prior to departing Knowles, certain former Knowles employees with access to and understanding of Knowles’s confidential information and the Knowles Balanced Armature Trade Secrets took steps to secretly remove data from Knowles."

"Upon information and belief, these former Knowles employees are working or have worked for Bellsing."

"Mr. Chai the general manager employed by Bellsing in connection with the launch of its factory in mid-2017 spent hours copying extensive Knowles files to a USB drive at Knowles in June 2014."

"Around seven months before the mid-2017 announcement of Bellsing’s new factory and partnership with Mingshi, one then-Knowles employee uploaded numerous files containing voluminous Knowles trade secrets information to an Internet storage site, deleted thousands of files on his Knowles hard drive, and then left Knowles around one month later."

"That individual subsequentlyjoined Respondent Bellsing"

"Downstream" audio companies

"Knowles has analyzed at least one product from each Downstream Respondent containing Bellsing balanced armature receiver devices and numerous Bellsing balanced armature receiver devices, as set forth in the confidential Zolp Declaration."

"For the reasons stated in the Zolp Declaration, upon information and belief, each of the products set forth in the Zolp Declaration is believed to utilize or benefit from, or have been made with equipment utilizing or otherwise unfairly benefiting from, at least one or more of the Knowles Balanced Armature Trade Secrets."

"Upon information and belief, Bellsing Accused Products, or components containing same, have been specifically designed into the downstream devices of the Downstream Respondents."

"Upon information and belief, Bellsing provides substantial support to the designers and/or manufacturers of Downstream Accused Products, with the Downstream Respondent and Bellsing working together to ensure that the Bellsing Accused Product is properly “designed in” to the Downstream Accused Product."

"Jessie Gao, a former account manager for Bellsing, has likewise described Bellsing as further providing “after sales service.”"

"Each of the Downstream Respondents has been provided with express written notice regarding Knowles’s good faith belief as to the unfair acts of Bellsing, Mingshi, and Mr.Li, including supporting facts ..."

"In addition to Knowles having discussed these acts with various of the Downstream Respondents."

"Nonetheless, each Downstream Respondent continues to import and/or sell after importation..."

"Apart from actual notice received from Knowles regarding misappropriation, as discussed below, upon information and belief, each of the Downstream Respondents knew or had reason to know of the foregoing misappropriation."

"Upon information and belief, Bellsing has offered Bellsing Accused Products to the Downstream Respondents at prices significantly lower than the prices for comparable Knowles products."

"The Bellsing Accused Products have substantial physical, electrical, and acoustical similarities to those of Knowles"

"Bellsing touts itself as being “one of the few suppliers who can provide high precision acoustic components around the world,” despite its very limited time in the market."

"Upon information and belief, each of the Downstream Respondents should have known that Bellsing could only offer these low prices on products comparable to those of Knowles, being marketed as drop-in replacements to Knowles products that have been launched in a very short time period, by unlawfully violating Knowles’s intellectual property rights."

For each of the following items, Knowles has imported one into the US, disassembled it and found it to contain at least one Bellsing BA product, therefore seeking a Cease & Desist against the company:

FiiO F9 Dynamic Hybrid Earphones

Fidue A73 Hybrid Monitor Earphones

InEarz Audio P300

MagicEar Personal Sound Amplifiers

Campfire Audio Solaris In-Ear Monitors

Clear Tune Monitors AS-7 In-Ear Monitors

Resound S-Receiver Tubing & Resound NP-Receiver Tubing

Jerry Harvey JH10X3 Pro In-Ear Monitors

"Knowles also requests permanent cease and desist orders directed to each of the named Respondents, ...

for a period of at least 10 years, from using or disclosing any subject matter of Knowles’s trade secrets at issue in this Investigation, and from importing, selling, offering for sale, using, marketing, advertising, distributing, transferring, repairing or servicing, assembling, testing, aiding or abetting other entities in importation, sale for importation, sale after importation, transfer, or distribution, and/or soliciting U.S. agents or distributors for importation, sale for importation, sale after importation, transfer, or distribution of certain balanced armature devices and electronic devices containing the same, or components thereof, or from domestically installing Accused Products after importation into downstream devices assembled or manufactured by or for Respondents in the United States."

This would mean for example that existing Solaris units using Bellsing BAs can't be serviced or assembled or sold in the US.

Damages to Knowles

Knowles explains its "significant" investment in the US into R&D, capital and labour.

Then explained how Bellsing is attempting to damage Knowles.

"... including Bellsing’s efforts to dramatically undersell its products as identical replacements of Knowles components, and Bellsing’s offers to build products for Knowles customers meeting Knowles’s existing specifications, is an imminent threat to Knowles in both of these segments"

"Upon information and belief, Bellsing has targeted Knowles’s customers across both the hearing aid and commercial markets in which Knowles sells balanced armature devices, and sold or offered to sell Bellsing Accused Products for significantly lower prices than Knowles."

"In the hearing aid market, upon information and belief, Bellsing has been trying to sell Bellsing Accused Products to market leader hearing aid companies who collectively represent the vast majority of the market for balanced armature devices and who are Knowles’s top five customers in the hearing aid space"

"Bellsing has recently started selling Bellsing Accused Products to at least one of these companies."

"Upon information and belief, Bellsing has approached every one of the market leader customers, and aggressively attempted to win their business."

"Upon information and belief, Bellsing has offered them prices for balanced armature devices that are significantly lower than Knowles’s."

"Bellsing has attended several of the big trade shows that service the hearing aid industry. Attendance at these shows helps generate sales."

"Bellsing has sent several former Knowles employees to represent it at these trade shows."

Knowles argues it can't lower prices to compete because it has to offset its R&D investments


"Complainants request a general exclusion order directed to balanced armature devices made by, for, or in concert with Bellsing, Mingshi, or Ryan Li, products containing the same, and components thereof containing same, regardless of source."

"Knowles has had significant difficulty identifying all such importers. The balanced armature devices at issue are small, relatively inexpensive, and easily confused with Knowles balanced armature devices as they have been designed to be visually and operationally as close as possible to Knowles devices."

"... the only practical way for Knowles to determine whether a particular downstream device is an Accused Product utilizing one of the Bellsing balanced armature devices at issue is by purchasing the device and breaking open the housing."

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Текстовая версия Сейчас: 9.4.2020, 17:16