The Russound/LeisureTech dispute settled, A-BUS faces a booming builder
market, new competition and Ohm's Law.
By Janet Pinkerton
Early last month, Jeff Kussard, Russound's vice president of strategic development, was working with suppliers, distributors and dealers to restore the flow of Russound's A-BUS products in the channel by the first
half of June.
Russound is restarting its A-BUS business after hammering out an agreement with LeisureTech Electronics, the technology's Sydney, Australia-based owner, settling a protracted dispute that some feared would bring a Beta-versus-VHS-type format war
to the distributed audio market. Russound was LeisureTech's first (in 2000) and most successful A-BUS licensee in the United States, an OEM supplier to two A-BUS licensees, and at one time, an A-BUS licensing agent.
The falling out couldn't have come at a worse time: After five years in the U.S. market, A-BUS was adding licensees (see sidebar on page 50 for a current list), and its business potential was growing. The builder market, in particular, was catching on to the benefits of offering distributed audio options in new homes, and A-BUS positions itself as a reliable, cost-effective solution that builders could standardize and package into new home options.
NOT THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN?
In part, what started the rift was the existence of the Sonance AVC patent (U.S. 6,389,139), which seemed to overlap with the A-BUS technology. Sonance parent company Dana Innovations applied for a patent for a powered volume control within a distributed audio system in November 1997, and the U.S. Patents & Trademarks office granted the patent in May 2002. The Sonance patent covers the basic structure of the AVC system: how the signal is handled as it travels from audio sources, through a signal conditioner/amplifier, over cabling (four-conductor speaker wire carrying left channel audio, right channel audio, power and ground), and then through the in-wall amplifier for delivery to the speakers.