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Apple sued by THX

THX, the audio company founded by George Lucas has filed a suit late last week against Apple in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Thursday. They claim that various models of iPad, iMac and iPhone infringe on a single speaker patent for a ‘narrow profile speaker’. The news was posted by AppleInsider at the weekend.

According to the complaint, Apple are knowingly infringing and continuing to infringe on THX’s U.S. Patent No. 7,433,483 for “Narrow profile speaker configurations and systems,” which was a property signed for in 2008. This describes methods to effectively enhance sound quality in compact speaker systems integrated into consumer electronics such as computers and televisions.

THX are claiming that Apple’s violation has caused monetary damages and irreparable harm and are seeking royalties or damages to ensure they can recoup some of the lost money.

THX were founded in 2002 and hold many patents which relate to acoustics technology and speaker hardware. THX are currently forcing a complaint against one of their patents which covers a system that delivers quality audio from a speaker disposed in a confined area. One of the patent claims explains that the output aperture or speaker duct is relatively more narrow than the speaker face.

Illustration of one embodiment of the '483 patent (top), and another of the narrow sound duct situated at a right angle in relation to the driver units (bottom). | Source: USPTO

The ‘483 patent also describes a system in which a sound reflecting surface is parallel with the the drive unit, or speaker face, and mounting surface, with sound dampening material placed around the reflecting and mounting surfaces to create an acoustically isolated environment. Sound is channeled toward a narrow sound duct which is positioned at a right angle in relation to the drive unit.

The offending products are iPhone models from the 4S onward and as yet detailed models of iPad and iMac. The iMac speakers in particular are very thin profile and the audio is projected downwards via the apertures which are thinner than the speaker faces hidden within the machine.

AppleInsider add “For its part, Apple also owns a variety of speaker-centric patents, including those directly related to implementation with portable devices like the iPhone and iPad. Most recently, the company was granted U.S. Patent No. 8,385,568 for “Low-profile speaker arrangements for compact electronic devices,” which could substantially share some claims with the THX patent in suit. The ‘568 patent will likely not be used in Apple’s defense, however, as it was filed for in 2010 and granted in February 2013.”

Could this be part of the problem? Read our story from 2011.

Kitguru says: Will Apple settle out of court?

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