Music Business

Sorry, But You Can’t Have This Answer To Your Headphone Problems


Pogo_apart-591x373By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.

Moore’s Law dictates that the speed of processors doubles roughly every two years.

“Headphone’s Law” dictates that headphone connectors must always remain horrible, snagging on all sorts of stuff, causing all sorts of pain and mayhem, until they eventually break — and maybe even break the device to which they are attached.

The apparent reason for this: three patents dictating the use of magnetic connectors to let a headphone cord detach when yanked, the way Apple’s MagSafe laptop power cord connectors do.

After news surfaced that Apple is looking into headphones that will be harder to break, because they would have special bendy parts, Fast Co Design posted a great report on a better idea than the one Apple apparently has (which is quite an achievement in itself): headphone cords that detach when yanked, then reconnect with a magnet and some little pins.

Snag that headphone cord on the inevitable banister, door knob, or elbow, and it’d just pop off of your device, with no harm to anything –including your ears, because that can be really painful with the in-ear kind (which are by far the best option for fidelity and portability).

Because you’d want to use them with multiple devices that already have the same headphone plugs we’ve been dealing with for 60 years or so, these headphones would come in two parts: the headphones themselves, plus a little micro-dongle that fits into the 3.5mm headphone jack in your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Yank on the headphone cord, and it simply detaches, only to be reconnected with ease.

Brilliant!

Even better, the design for this already exists. It’s called the Pogo, and it only costs $3 to produce, according to its inventor, Jon Patterson.

Patterson had originally wanted to Kickstart the idea, but people told him he’d need a company, because they have lawyers. So he approached Urban Ears, which expressed interest in selling the Pogo before being scared off by the patent situation. He figured a larger company would have more lawyers to get the Pogo into production, so he went to leading accessory manufacturer Belkin, which also saw the obvious utility of — and need for — this clever device.

However, Belkin’s lawyers decided the Pogo could not be made without running up against patents for “Release plug connector system,” “Magnetic connector for electronic device,” and “Releasable connector system.”

Unfortunately, this means you’ll probably never get to use the Pogo, even though you desperately need it, unless another company decides it can make something like this (see video below) without losing everything to multiple licensing fees and/or lawsuits.

“I’ve always been told, ‘If you can think it, you can make it,’” Patterson told Fast Company. “But nobody ever talked about patent trolls. Today, patents seem to repress designers from innovating, instead of protecting their innovations. Who knows how many other designs that could innovate the market are being crushed for fear of being sued?”

Here’s the demo video of a great thing you probably can’t have:

THE POGO: Concept Video from Jon Patterson

 

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1 Comment

  1. Weird. Well, two of the patents are assigned to Replug, and they’re for mechanical connectors, audio and otherwise, that rely on protruding edges, maybe also springs, to interlock. The other is assigned to Apple and is for a generic magnetic connector.
    Patent trolls are generally thought of as companies that hold patents just to extort money. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. These companies have real products based on these patents.
    I agree that innovation is stifled by the fear that these patents would be used against the developer of a novel connector that combines these ideas. But to call that “trolling” is stretching the definition a bit.
    Is anything stopping Apple and Replug from collaborating on a Pogo-like product? It has been 5+ years with no development on that front, so I have to wonder if all they need is someone like Patterson to come along and ask for a license to do it himself. Surely for a cut of the profits, or investment in the company, they would only stand to gain. And they could still, uh, pull the plug if it wasn’t successful.
    Why not seek comment from Replug and Apple for this article?

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