THX Lawsuit Says iPhone, iPad Infringe on Sound Patent

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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]

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The iPhone and Mac models targeted in this lawsuit were released after the THX patent was granted, but Apple also owns several audio-related patents that could come into play. Unless the two companies find a way to settle their differences before going to trial we're expecting this could turn into an interesting case.

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5 years it took them to file? Sounds like someone isn’t actively defending their patents.


You can’t call THX a patent troll. They use and license their stuff. I suspect that THX is going to argue that Tomlinson Holman used too similar IP, probably inadvertently,  when he designed stuff for Apple. More than likely this will get settled.


Also, unlike trademarks, I don’t believe that patents share the requirement of having to be actively defended to remain enforceable.


Apple is going to argue that Holman clearly knew what he had invented and patented before while at THX, and created something different for Apple. One patent holder strategy is to make all kinds of claims what a patent means. Having the actual inventor on your side stating “no, I didn’t invent what you claim I invented” must be a strong argument.


THX doesn’t MAKE ANYTHING (spoken in a plaintiff voice by a young hippy-ish looking girl about ready to break into tears over the injustice). They just get patents and sue people.

All they do is INVENT and CERTIFY (aka license). We know that inventing is not worth anything, just ask our president who recently said that “They [THX?] don’t actually produce anything themselves. [They license and certify manufacturers.] They’re just trying to essentially leverage and hijack somebody else’s idea [The speakers made by other companies?] and see if they can extort some money [license/certification fees] out of them.

Here are some of THX’s VICTIMS:

There are specific THX Approved Equipment lists for cinemas, movie studios and pm3 rooms.

KCS (Kelonik Cinema Sound)
Magnum Acoustics
Martin Audio
Procella Audio
This is what TROLLS do!!! The don’t MAKE anything. They get patents and “certify” (aka license) real innovators to MAKE things.

Notice that the patent that THX is asserting against Apple is for a speaker invented by Lawrence R. Fincham who SOLD his rights to THX!!!

In fact, a search will reveal that ALL of the 74 patents owned by THX (a company that makes nothing) were sold to it by their various inventors. If this doesn’t qualify THX as a “patent troll”, I don’t know what does;)

Update: Someone mentioned that this is the first time THX has sued for patent infringement. If that is so, it means that they have had a very successful “certification” (aka licensing) program. It does not mean that they have not “asserted” their IP against other companies.

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