Synth pioneer Don Buchla is taking the current owners of his brand to court for $500,000

Buchla claims he was forced to sign an unfavourable deal and was treated “with oppression and malice”.

Don Buchla, the 77-year-old inventor of early synthesizers such as the Series 100 modular, is taking the current owners of the Buchla brand to court for breach of contract.

Buchla sold his original company, Buchla & Associates, in 2012, after a battle with cancer that left him unable to continue with day-to-day tasks like sales and marketing. In order to secure cash for his future and have the freedom to continue developing new products, he sold the Buchla brand to Audio Supermarket Pty. Ltd., an Australia-based music distributor, which formed a new company, Buchla Electronic Musical Instruments.

In a suit filed with the The United States District Court for the Northern District of California yesterday (March 24), Buchla alleges he was promised $440,000 for the sale of the company, but has been paid less than $110,000 so far. It also alleges that the defendants breached the Asset Purchase Agreement of Buchla & Associates by “failing to use reasonable business efforts to reach sales targets.”

According to the suit, Buchla was also employed by BEMI in a development role as chief technology officer, which the suit alleges was terminated “without good cause” in 2013. The suit further alleges that the defendants have acted “in bad faith, and with oppression and malice”, to deny Buchla the benefits of the agreement made between the two parties.

The lawsuit is attempting to regain the original company’s assets, intellectual property and confirmed purchase orders back to Buchla, as well as seeking compensation for damages, by proving that  Buchla was convinced to sign a “highly unfavorable, one-sided Memorandum of Understanding with Audio Supermarket” back in 2012, which the suit alleges “was merely an agreement to negotiate in good faith toward a purchase agreement and not a binding purchase agreement in itself.”

In the event that an enforceable contract does exist, Buchla is seeking expectation damages of at least $500,000 for the defendants’ breach of the Asset Purchase Agreement, Buchla’s Employment Agreement and consequential damages. The suit also states that Buchla believes a stroke suffered in 2014 was the result of stress incurred by the defendants’ “breaching activity and bad-faith conduct.”

Buchla’s first commercial synth, the Series 100, was released in 1966, and though his synths aren’t as widely known as that of Bob Moog, he has an important role in shaping electronic music nevertheless. Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon was made with one of Buchla’s early synthesisers, and was the first electronic work commissioned by a record company.

You can find the full court filing here. We have reached out for comment and will update if we hear anything back. (H/T  Tom Whitwell)