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Tony Fadell-backed company sues Andy Rubin’s Essential over wireless connector tech

Tony Fadell-backed company sues Andy Rubin’s Essential over wireless connector tech


A startup supported by the Nest co-founder is going after the father of Android

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Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Keyssa, a startup specializing in wireless data transmission that is backed by Nest co-founder Tony Fadell, has filed a lawsuit against Android phone maker Essential, according to a report from Reuters. Keyssa has been around since 2009, and the company says it was in talks with Essential for 10 months or so to help provide the technology behind connecting Essential’s new Android handset with its planned family of accessories and smart home devices. The talks ended without an agreement, and Keyssa is now accusing Essential of trade secret theft. Essential began shipping its new Essential Phone in August alongside a camera accessory that connects to the phone wirelessly.

Keyssa provides a small microchip that facilities low-frequency data transmission, to avoid using crowded Wi-Fi or Bluetooth networks, in ways similar to the mesh networking technology now popular in the home router market. Essential, created by Android co-founder Andy Rubin (who is previously a co-worker of Fadell’s when both worked at Google), has a grand vision of using unique software advances to connect together a sprawling network of smartphone and smart home accessories that all talk to each other seamlessly, without needing to fumble around with obnoxious protocol settings. That exists today only as a 360-degree camera accessory and a smartphone dock, both of which use magnetic connectors and wireless tech to communicate with the phone. Essential, which is planning many more products for its growing family of devices, ultimately went with a chip from a Keyssa competitor called SiBEAM.

Keyssa says Essential essentially stole its tech, found a different component supplier to make it work, and is now trying to market a product using information collected during the two companies’ meetings that is protected by non-disclosure agreements, which Keyssa says forbade Essential from using the trade secrets to develop commercial products. According to a statement given to Reuters back in August, Essential considers Keyssa a “component supplier for Essential Phone,” and that it “chose to proceed with a different supplier that could meet our performance specifications for the product.” Essential was not immediately available for comment.