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Apple looks to resolve THX speaker tech patent suit out of court

post #1 of 30
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Lawyers for Apple and THX are currently working to resolve a patent lawsuit between the two companies without the matter having to head to court.

iphone 4s
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 dispute in question stems from THX's decision to sue Apple in March of this year over infringement on U.S. Patent No. 7,433,483. While the suit is scheduled to begin the case-management process on June 14, Bloomberg reports that attorneys for the two companies have filed a request to postpone that hearing until June 26.

"The parties are currently attempting to resolve this matter outside of this litigation," the filing explains.

THX's suit claims infringement on a patent for "narrow profile speaker configurations and systems," and the George Lucas-founded company secured that patent in 2008. The patent covers methods to effectively enhance sound quality in compact speaker arrangements integrated into consumer electronics. THX says that Apple's bestselling iPhone and iPad products, as well as some iMac models, infringe on the patent.

THX claimed that Apple's infringement caused it "monetary damage and irreparable harm," and sought a court order to stop the infringement and secure a reasonable royalty, as well as damages to compensate for lost profit.

The case in question is THX Ltd. v. Apple Inc. (AAPL), 13-01161, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
post #2 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Lawyers for Apple and THX are currently working to resolve a patent lawsuit between the two companies without the matter having to head to court.

"The parties are currently attempting to resolve this matter outside of this litigation," the filing explains.

As it really should be. It almost seems like some companies wait for a lawsuit before deciding to try and negotiate a license.
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post #3 of 30
How did Apple's design cause monetary damage to THX? Would THX supplied Apple with parts or do they also want 2.5% of the cost if the iPhone? I bet the speakers only cost Apple 20-30 cents to make.

Thin speakers. Do all the other phone manufactures already pay THX or do they use thick speakers?
post #4 of 30
Although it doesn't apply here, was so glad to read this morning that Obama is going after patent trolls. They sicken me.
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post #5 of 30
I think you mean Apple sues THX. Apple is always the suer, never the suee. /s
post #6 of 30
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Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Although it doesn't apply here, was so glad to read this morning that Obama is going after patent trolls. They sicken me.

Obama inserting himself into the matter sickens me more. Today's magic word is "corporatism".

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post #7 of 30
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Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

As it really should be. It almost seems like some companies wait for a lawsuit before deciding to try and negotiate a license.

 

It's used as leverage and show intent.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rob53 View Post

How did Apple's design cause monetary damage to THX? Would THX supplied Apple with parts or do they also want 2.5% of the cost if the iPhone? I bet the speakers only cost Apple 20-30 cents to make.

Thin speakers. Do all the other phone manufactures already pay THX or do they use thick speakers?

 

Lost revenue on licensing fees. No. No parts are required from THX. Nothing to do with the speakers themselves, but apparently THX patented a method of positioning speakers and designing the output channel to enhance sound in narrow designs.

 

They will negotiate a licensing fee based on how much each feel Apple's design relates to THX's. If they can't agree, then it goes to court where a supposedly unbiased review can take place to determine if or how much was infringed upon.

 

While I don't doubt the validity of THX's patent, I do have to think, because of Apple's usually unique designs in regards to computer cases, they've spent a lot of time engineering their own sound channels along with cooling systems (fans, ducts). More than likely they just ended up at the same place THX did and will only end up paying a marginal fee.


Edited by mjtomlin - 6/5/13 at 10:32am
Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #8 of 30
Am I correct in my assumption that Disney now owns THX? Was it part of the Lucasfilm acquisition?

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post #9 of 30
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Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Although it doesn't apply here, was so glad to read this morning that Obama is going after patent trolls. They sicken me.

Patent trolls are the end result of a broken patent system. There is nothing wrong with the ownership of IP and protecting that IP from those that would poach it. After a whole companies are built upon selling IP such as ARM. In fact many or Apples products are built upon IP licensed or bought from others.

The real problem here isn't protecting valid IP it is rather the rather loosely defined patent that are overly broad. The idea is to protect the inventor of an concept. That is good. What is bad is the overly broad definition of what is new. This is where software patents have gone horribly wrong and in fact seem to be a terrible mistake.

in any event I had to interject here because often people focus on the symptom rather than the cause. Trolls are not inherently bad, it is rather the patent system that allows for overly broad coverage from loosely worded patents that is the real issue. The last thing we need is a change to the laws that would make it difficult for companies like Apple to protect their IP.
post #10 of 30
Google the IEEE story called, "Hooray for the Patent Troll".

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post #11 of 30
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Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Am I correct in my assumption that Disney now owns THX? Was it part of the Lucasfilm acquisition?

Good question.

I really don't know, but this might be the reason for the more reasonable approach to the issue. Disney is in fact extremely aggressive in protecting its IP by the way. However being aggressive does not mean being unreasonable.
post #12 of 30
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Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Google the IEEE story called, "Hooray for the Patent Troll".

You mean the software patent friendly standards body IEEE? That one?
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post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post

Patent trolls are the end result of a broken patent system. There is nothing wrong with the ownership of IP and protecting that IP from those that would poach it. After a whole companies are built upon selling IP such as ARM. In fact many or Apples products are built upon IP licensed or bought from others.

The real problem here isn't protecting valid IP it is rather the rather loosely defined patent that are overly broad. The idea is to protect the inventor of an concept. That is good. What is bad is the overly broad definition of what is new. This is where software patents have gone horribly wrong and in fact seem to be a terrible mistake.

in any event I had to interject here because often people focus on the symptom rather than the cause. Trolls are not inherently bad, it is rather the patent system that allows for overly broad coverage from loosely worded patents that is the real issue. The last thing we need is a change to the laws that would make it difficult for companies like Apple to protect their IP.

Tightening up claims standards shouldn't prohibit anyone from protecting legitimate innovations should it? That's what the President ordered, plus some additional training for patent examiners tasked with passing judgement on software patent applications.
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post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


Patent trolls are the end result of a broken patent system. There is nothing wrong with the ownership of IP and protecting that IP from those that would poach it. After a whole companies are built upon selling IP such as ARM. In fact many or Apples products are built upon IP licensed or bought from others.

The real problem here isn't protecting valid IP it is rather the rather loosely defined patent that are overly broad. The idea is to protect the inventor of an concept. That is good. What is bad is the overly broad definition of what is new. This is where software patents have gone horribly wrong and in fact seem to be a terrible mistake.

in any event I had to interject here because often people focus on the symptom rather than the cause. Trolls are not inherently bad, it is rather the patent system that allows for overly broad coverage from loosely worded patents that is the real issue. The last thing we need is a change to the laws that would make it difficult for companies like Apple to protect their IP.

 

I would make two corrections:

 

1. The idea is to protect the inventor of an implementation of a concept. The problem is that concepts and ideas are being granted patents, not implementations, which indeed opens the door for the trolls. If implementations were required, trolls would likely face extinction.

 

2. Trolls are inherently bad. They are, by definition, not honest players, but are gaming the system. Anyone gaming the system is sucking resources out of it and not contributing proportionally to what they are taking. Trolls are essentially parasites, and we should rid the system of them.

 

 

None of that, however, has anything to do with this case.

post #15 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by wizard69 View Post


Patent trolls are the end result of a broken patent system. There is nothing wrong with the ownership of IP and protecting that IP from those that would poach it. After a whole companies are built upon selling IP such as ARM. In fact many or Apples products are built upon IP licensed or bought from others.

The real problem here isn't protecting valid IP it is rather the rather loosely defined patent that are overly broad. The idea is to protect the inventor of an concept. That is good. What is bad is the overly broad definition of what is new. This is where software patents have gone horribly wrong and in fact seem to be a terrible mistake.

in any event I had to interject here because often people focus on the symptom rather than the cause. Trolls are not inherently bad, it is rather the patent system that allows for overly broad coverage from loosely worded patents that is the real issue. The last thing we need is a change to the laws that would make it difficult for companies like Apple to protect their IP.

 

I don't think that's the whole issue here. Patent trolls are companies that buy or use IP for the sole purpose of profiting from litigation rather than making actual use of it. What needs to happen, is that companies should be forced to show intent of use in a viable product and therefor deserve some kind of monetary compensation for lost revenues. From THAT point forward, not from anytime before they bought the IP. Collecting for fees prior to purchase should have been the responsibility of the previous owner.

 

Software patents are much harder to defend because they aren't something you can "show" how they work. No one wants to look through thousands of line of code to see that your approach to something is a unique method. If I write an algorithm for encoding and decoding video that's 100 times more efficient than anything that's out there, of course I want to be able to protect myself and my invention and patent it. The issue that most people don't understand is that the patent title might be "method for encoding and decoding video" and the first thing they think is, "That's been done for ever now! That shouldn't be patentable." Of course it should be, I just spent 6 months of my life developing it, why shouldn't I be able to patent it and license it to other companies?


Edited by mjtomlin - 6/5/13 at 11:07am
Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #16 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

 

1. The idea is to protect the inventor of an implementation of a concept. The problem is that concepts and ideas are being granted patents, not implementations, which indeed opens the door for the trolls. If implementations were required, trolls would likely face extinction.

There in lies the problem. Some inventions are theoretical in nature but still should be patentable. For example scientists could design a laser antimissile detection system of some sort. It looks good on paper but to actually implement it might cost billions of dollars. By the time they were able to implement their technology and therefore patent it, someone else could have used the concept in a different design.

 

Surely the patent office should be able to tell the difference between a scientific invention with a theoretical implementation and a ridiculous invention by a patent troll for something like a time machine with no practical possibility of implementation. Unfortunately the patent office doesn't care to distinguish the difference. They would rather just patent everything that is applied for and let the courts resolve any disputes that may arise later.

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post #17 of 30
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Originally Posted by mstone View Post

There in lies the problem. Some inventions are theoretical in nature but still should be patentable. For example scientists could design a laser antimissile detection system of some sort. It looks good on paper but to actually implement it might cost billions of dollars. By the time they were able to implement their technology and therefore patent it, someone else could have used the concept in a different design.

 

Implementation does not mean "physical manifestation" it merely means describing a unique method to achieve your invention whether you're capable of building it or not.

 

An invention is an idea, the implementation is the method necessary to achieving that idea.

 

You don't patent ideas, you patent the implementation.

 

What's the old saying, "If you can build a better mouse trap..." The mouse trap is just the idea, how you design your mouse trap is what gets patented.


Edited by mjtomlin - 6/5/13 at 11:26am
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post #18 of 30
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Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Am I correct in my assumption that Disney now owns THX? Was it part of the Lucasfilm acquisition?

THX was a spinoff from Lucasfilm in the early 2000s. It remains its own entity.
post #19 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

Implementation does not mean "physical manifestation" it merely means describing a unique method to achieve your invention whether you're capable of building it or not.

I guess I was confused by the definition of the word 'implement'.

 

Perhaps different requirements should be applied to different type of inventions. For example in software patents. An implementation would involve certain lines of code, however, if a competitor were to write completely different lines of code which resulted in the exact same outcome, it is not a violation of a patent. On the other hand if you were to patent a user interface such as pressing a button to execute a program with certain features, it would be an infringement of look and feel regardless of how the underlying code was different.

 

Sometimes a proposed implementation process is obvious and in other times it is not even specified. 

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post #20 of 30
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Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I guess I was confused by the definition of the word 'implement'.

 

Perhaps different requirements should be applied to different type of inventions. For example in software patents. An implementation would involve certain lines of code, however, if a competitor were to write completely different lines of code which resulted in the exact same outcome, it is not a violation of a patent. On the other hand if you were to patent a user interface such as pressing a button to execute a program with certain features, it would be an infringement of look and feel regardless of how the underlying code was different.

 

Sometimes a proposed implementation process is obvious and in other times it is not even specified. 

 

Think of an implementation as an effective method, or, in other words, a step by step description of how to build something, such that, if you were to follow all the steps as written, you would have a working system. For any given system, there are likely some number of effective methods, greater than 1, that could be used to reach the same result. Some of these effective methods may share some steps, but others may be entirely unique. In each case, for each step, to determine if this is really an implementation, an effective method, for building the machine, or simply an idea, it should be clear exactly what the step tells you to do. You ought not be able to imagine two or more ways to perform the step if it's part of an effective method, it should be spelled out explicitly. If you can imagine multiple ways to perform the step, it's just an idea.

 

Will this make it harder to get software/systems patents? Absolutely. Will this eliminate patent trolls? Pretty much, because they depend on getting away with patenting ideas, not implementations.

post #21 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


You mean the software patent friendly standards body IEEE? That one?

 

People can decide for themselves whether or not the article makes sense. Can you?


Edited by SpamSandwich - 6/5/13 at 12:49pm

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post #22 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


Tightening up claims standards shouldn't prohibit anyone from protecting legitimate innovations should it? That's what the President ordered, plus some additional training for patent examiners tasked with passing judgement on software patent applications.

 

An executive action is not the same as a royal decree. Just because he "ordered" it doesn't mean it's going to happen. As I previously mentioned, I expect this to be tangled up in court far longer than the president's remaining years in office. This "action" probably has more to do with political payback than anything.


Edited by SpamSandwich - 6/5/13 at 12:48pm

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post #23 of 30
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Originally Posted by mstone View Post

I guess I was confused by the definition of the word 'implement'.

 

Perhaps different requirements should be applied to different type of inventions. For example in software patents. An implementation would involve certain lines of code, however, if a competitor were to write completely different lines of code which resulted in the exact same outcome, it is not a violation of a patent. On the other hand if you were to patent a user interface such as pressing a button to execute a program with certain features, it would be an infringement of look and feel regardless of how the underlying code was different.

 

Sometimes a proposed implementation process is obvious and in other times it is not even specified. 

 

Even in software patents, no actual code is required as you're usually patenting the algorithm (logical steps to accomplish). Coding that algorithm is analogous to actually building a "hardware" design. Code can be written in many different languages, just a physical device can be made of any number of different materials.

 

As an example, take the mouse trap, it's not the materials used, it's more than likely the mechanics of the trap that get patented (although in some instances, if you're using a specific material in a novel way, it usually included).

 

You're example of executing a program by pressing a button is the debatable issue with software patents. These are basically ideas that were already present in the physical world and applying them to user interfaces through software isn't really a new invention... I type in a command and press a button (the return key) to execute the program. Having said that, I believe being able to patent how that button behaves or reacts is patentable as long as it is something wholly new. Say, the button tracks if the user releases the mouse inside or outside of itself, then it could react in different ways, or even if the button was double clicked on, etc. These would have been new and novel approaches (inventions) to "buttons". They seem obvious today, but way back then they were new.

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post #24 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristophB View Post


THX was a spinoff from Lucasfilm in the early 2000s. It remains its own entity.

 

I should've checked Wikipedia first: "THX is currently owned by sound card manufacturer Creative Labs, which holds a 60% share of the company."

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THX

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post #25 of 30
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Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

I should've checked Wikipedia first: "THX is currently owned by sound card manufacturer Creative Labs
, which holds a 60% share of the company."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THX

Oh that's interesting, I really like Creative Labs, have been a fan since my first Sound Blaster. It's nice to hear that their being cordial about this. On a side note their wireless speaker systems are amazing, we have 3 D5xm's along with the DSxm subwoofer in our family room and they sound much better than the Bose's they replaced. It even has a dandy little iPad app to configure the speakers and equalizer.
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post #26 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


As it really should be. It almost seems like some companies wait for a lawsuit before deciding to try and negotiate a license.

While I agree that folks should attempt to negotiate before filing a lawsuit, in this case, THX filed a lawsuit against Apple in March.  Looks like they are trying to settle before going to trial.

post #27 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Am I correct in my assumption that Disney now owns THX? Was it part of the Lucasfilm acquisition?

No Creative labs now owns THX they have for a while.  Same company that makes soundblaster audio cards.

post #28 of 30
never mind (dup of above)
post #29 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post

Although it doesn't apply here, was so glad to read this morning that Obama is going after patent trolls. They sicken me.

I will pray for your health to improve....

post #30 of 30
mjtomlin View Post

While I don't doubt the validity of THX's patent, I do have to think, because of Apple's usually unique designs in regards to computer cases, they've spent a lot of time engineering their own sound channels along with cooling systems (fans, ducts). More than likely they just ended up at the same place THX did and will only end up paying a marginal fee.

 

Exactly. It's convergent evolution.

One hopes that these out-of-court negotiations includes both parties' engineers, instead of just lawyers.

 
wizard69 View Post
Disney is in fact extremely aggressive in protecting its IP by the way. However being aggressive does not mean being unreasonable.

 

Didn't they issue a takedown on some daycare that had a Disney character mural wall?

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