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THX sues Apple over speaker patent infringement on iPhone, iPad and iMac

THX has filed suit against Apple, claiming that the tech giant has infringed on one of its patents for "Narrow profile speaker configurations and systems" within the company's iPhones, iPads, and iMacs.

The result? The violations cause THX "monetary damage and irreparable harm," reports Bloomberg, and the company is seeking financial damages or royalty payments, as well as a court order that would force Apple to cease its alleged infringement.

According to THX's complaint, filed last week in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Apple is infringing the patent on its iPhone 4 (and later models), iPads, and iMacs, "which incorporate narrow-profile speaker units that output sound through a duct or aperture having a narrow dimension."

Here's where it gets interesting. The patent that THX is holding over Apple's head was granted to the company in 2008. US Patent No. 7,433,483 describes, in part, "A narrow profile speaker unit comprises at least one speaker outputting sound towards an internal surface and through a duct with an output terminus, such as a slot, having a narrow dimension, effectively changing the cross-section of the speaker's audio output wave. A pair of speakers may face one another, outputting sound towards a common output slot."

As Apple Insider notes, the bit about the duct does look rather similar to the current design of Apple's iMac speakers – which feature ducts that appear to channel sound in a downward direction from the actual speakers hidden inside the lower portion of the computer's thin body.

Additionally, it remains to be seen just how Apple's existing patents – which do include patents related to the channelling of audio in different directions within electronic devices – play into THX's claims. And that's especially true for any patents that happen to predate THX's patent. According to Apple Insider, one of the more relevant patents Apple currently holds, US Patent No. 8,385,568 for, "Low-profile speaker arrangements for compact electronic devices," was filed by Apple all of two years after THX's aforementioned patent was granted.

Apple and THX have until 14 May to reach some kind of early settlement over the dispute. As expected, neither Apple nor THX are commenting about the patent allegations in question.