March 18, 2013
THX Sues Apple, Claims iPhone Maker Infringed On Speaker Tech Patents
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Apple is known for building some of the thinnest and most beautiful products around. These machines, mobile or otherwise, aren´t just good looking, they often sound great as well. A single iMac can also pull double duty as a party machine, filling the room with enough sound to not be drowned out by a small crowd. Additionally, iPad owners never have to worry about missing any crucial dialogue when watching a movie on their tablets.
Though Apple has been building such clear and precise-sounding speakers into their devices for years, THX Ltd., a sound company founded by Star Wars creator George Lucas, is claiming the tech giant has been knowingly using their patented speaker technology for nearly as long.
THX is claiming Apple products violate their #7,433,483 patent for "Narrow profile speaker configurations and systems.” This patent was awarded to THX in 2008 and details methods for using a compact space to the advantage of the speaker.
According to Bloomberg, THX is claiming Apple´s use of their patent has caused them “monetary damage and irreparable harm.”
The studio sound company is now looking for a court to order Apple to halt using their patents, as well as a “reasonable royalty” or enough damages to pay THX back for the money they´ve lost. THX filed this suit on Thursday in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
The patent in question covers a system by which a crammed and compact space can be used to the speaker´s benefit by way of dampening material and channeling.
According to AppleInsider, this method involves turning a speaker´s face towards another flat surface. This flat surface then acts as a reflector, amplifying the sound. To direct and drive this sound, the patent method uses sound dampening material to isolate the speaker and the surface. With nowhere else to go, the sound is channeled through a narrow sound duct which is set at a right angle in relation to the speaker. AppleInsider suggests the newest iMacs could be the best example of this kind of technology used in Apple products.
With an incredibly thin frame, these new all-in-one machines could certainly benefit from such a sound driving system. The only speaker grill to speak of on the new iMac rests at the bottom of its chin. It´s not known if this computer violates the ℠483 patent, but it looks as if it certainly could.
THX claims Apple´s iPhone 4S and 5 violate this patent as well as undisclosed models of iMac and iPad. Neither Apple nor THX have commented about the case.
The last day for the two companies to reach an early settlement is May 14. If a settlement isn´t reached, the companies must have their initial disclosures into the court by June 7. The initial case management conference is due to start a week later.
Mikey Campbell with AppleInsider believes this case might not move forward at all.
“As devices become increasingly thin, the number of methods in which speakers can be effectively implemented within a given chassis is greatly reduced,” writes Campbell.