San Francisco: Apple was accused by THX, a company founded by 'Star Wars' producer George Lucas, of stealing speaker technology used in iPhones, iPads and iMac products.
THX holds a 2008 patent for a speaker unit that can boost sound output and attach to computers or flat-screen televisions, according to a complaint filed on Friday in federal court in California.
Apple products that incorporate the speaker units infringe the THX patent, causing the company "monetary damage and irreparable harm," according to the lawsuit. The complaint seeks a court order to stop the alleged infringement and a reasonable royalty, or damages to compensate THX for lost profit.
THX, founded in 2002, drew its name from Lucas's first film, THX 1138, according to Wookieepedia, a website about 'Star Wars'.
iTunes App Store,
Once part of Lucasfilms, THX created a set of standards and a certification system for theatre sound systems to ensure the sound quality of 'Star Wars' movies could be reproduced for moviegoers, according to the company's website.
This year, San Rafael, California-based THX announced its first mobile application, THX tune-up, available in Apple's iTunes App Store, according to a January 29 statement from THX.
The application allows consumers to use an Apple device with the iOS operating system to adjust the performance of televisions, projectors and speakers, according to the statement.
Marika Knapp, a spokeswoman for THX, said in an e-mail that the company doesn't comment on pending legal matters. Colleen Patterson, spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined to comment on the complaint.
Apple vs Samsung
In another high-profile case, a final decision in Samsung Electronics' patent-infringement case against Apple was delayed by United States trade officials until May 31 as they seek input on the effect of a possible import ban of the iPhone and iPad.
The US International Trade Commission (ITC) said it wanted to know more about how a ban would affect the market for smartphones and tablet computers. The question pertains to one of the four patents that Samsung asserted against Apple, for a way that phones transmit data.
The notice could indicate the commission is considering a finding Apple violated that Samsung Electronics patent.
The agency could be trying to fashion a compromise that would give Apple time to work around the patent, or to deny an import ban because of the impact on consumers, said Rodney Sweetland, a lawyer with Duane Morris in Washington who specializes in ITC cases.
"Were they not thinking about a violation, they would not need to ask for further information of this nature," Sweetland said in a telephone interview.
The commission asked for comments on what type of later-generation products are available that are authorised by Samsung to use the technology covered by the patent, and whether they are acceptable substitutes to the iPhone and iPad.
The ITC last declined to issue an import ban on public policy grounds in 1984, when it decided that barring hospital beds designed for burn victims would harm patients who might not be able to get the equipment.
In a patent case won by Apple against HTC., the commission gave the Taiwanese handset maker time to design around the Apple invention.