The Law & Amar Bose

John Marks' concise yet comprehensive tribute to Amar Bose recognizes that no accurate portrait of him would be complete without the mention of legal proceedings, most notably his 14-year battle with Consumers Union, the group that publishes Consumer Reports, over a disparaging review of his model 901 speaker that he felt was based on bad science. Bose Corporation became the first company to beat CU in court, but the decision was reversed on appeal. Bose then took the case to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The press, fearing for its freedom, shrieked. A friend-of-the-court brief submitted to the Supreme Court carried the names of eight major media companies, including CBS, NBC, the New York Times Co. and Newsweek, apparently a knee-jerk reaction since Dr. Bose claimed a mere handful of writers had bothered to call for his side of the story.

I covered the case in an Audio magazine piece, published in December 1984 after the Supreme Court had ruled against Bose, and mentioned related matters: a 10-page lawyer's letter to a magazine called Physician's Life Style demanding redress for comments it made about the 901 in 1974; litigation to block publication of a 1976 issue of England's Hi-Fi Choice that included a Bose speaker review—Dr. Bose told me that had been instigated by U.K. management without his knowledge; and one pitting Bose's Dutch subsidiary against Consumers Union in the Netherlands (not connected to CU here). Bose Corporation has also defended turf it lay claim to by challenging rival manufacturers over model numbers, including Thiel, as John Atkinson's footnote to John Marks' obit notes, and Dual, which once renamed a cassette deck initially sold as the 901.

All this reinforces my initial impression of Amar Bose, who was tall, lean and swarthy, and who arrived for our first meeting appearing as self-assured as Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven. I later likened his exiting the Cadillac he came in—one equipped with the then-new Bose autosound system—to a gunfighter dismounting. He really was a drill-the-bandits, odds-be-damned kind of guy who followed his own star and always rode point.

Dr. Bose once told me he had applied to just one college: MIT. Clearly, he was already well on his way to becoming the man with brass enough to barge into the General Motors executive suite proclaiming he could produce better sound in their cars than their own Delco unit could.

Bravo for that. Whatever you think about his speakers, Bose singlehandedly started an autosound revolution that continues to expose countless people who may otherwise never have experienced decent sound to such names as JBL, Infinity, Mark Levinson, B&W, Dynaudio and others.

There's a coda. A few years ago, I wrote an ad for an entertainment furniture company, and its headline resulted in a letter from a Bose Corporation lawyer objecting to the use of a word associated with a Bose product series. The headline was "Lifestyle Support."— David Lander

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