THX Lawsuit Says iPhone, iPad Infringe on Sound Patent

THX has filed a lawsuit against Apple over claims that the iPhone, iPad, and Mac computer lineup infringe on a 2008 patent it holds for speaker technology. The patent in question describes a system for a speaker unit that can increase audio and can also connect to computers and flatscreen televisions.

THX says Apple stole its speaker technologyTHX says Apple stole its speaker technology

The audio company claimed Apple is using its technology without permission, and that it is suffering "monetary damage and irreparable harm" because of Apple's actions.

THX is targeting the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5, along with the iPad and iMac for what it called "narrow-profile speaker units" because of their thin bodies and speaker systems that push sound through ducts and slim openings. The patent references reflective sound surfaces to help route sound outside the device, and looks like it describes the system Apple uses to fit speakers into its slim devices.

Apple ties to THX took an interesting turn in 2011 when it hired Tomlinson Holman, the man that invented the THX sound system and is the name on a long list of THX patents. Mr. Thomlinson was hired to run Apple's own sound technology division, and his involvement may well play a role in the THX lawsuit.

THX is the audio company founded by George Lucas, who is the man behind Star Wars and American Graffiti. The company was originally part of Lucasfilm, but was eventually spun off as its own company.

The company is asking a Federal Court in San Jose, California for a court order for reasonable royalties along with an order blocking the alleged infringement. Both sides are scheduled to start court-related meetings on May 14, so there is a little time for negotiations before heading to court.

Neither company is commenting on the pending litigation.

[Thanks to Bloomberg for the heads up]