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

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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).
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,179member
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 29
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,648member
    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?
  • Reply 3 of 29
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,478member
    Although it doesn't apply here, was so glad to read this morning that Obama is going after patent trolls. They sicken me.
  • Reply 4 of 29
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,870member
    I think you mean Apple sues THX. Apple is always the suer, never the suee. /s
  • Reply 5 of 29
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    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".
  • Reply 6 of 29
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,446member

    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.


     


    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.

  • Reply 7 of 29
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Am I correct in my assumption that Disney now owns THX? Was it part of the Lucasfilm acquisition?
  • Reply 8 of 29
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 29
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Google the IEEE story called, "Hooray for the Patent Troll".
  • Reply 10 of 29
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 13,377member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 29
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,179member
    Google the IEEE story called, "Hooray for the Patent Troll".

    You mean the software patent friendly standards body IEEE? That one?
  • Reply 12 of 29
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,179member
    wizard69 wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 29
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,653member

    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.

  • Reply 14 of 29
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,446member

    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?

  • Reply 15 of 29
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    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.

  • Reply 16 of 29
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,446member

    Quote:

    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.

  • Reply 17 of 29
    christophbchristophb Posts: 1,476member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 29
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    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. 

  • Reply 19 of 29
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,653member

    Quote:

    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.

  • Reply 20 of 29
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member

    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?

Sign In or Register to comment.