THX, the longtime gold standard of gear certification and loud animated trailers, is suing Apple over a speaker isolation patent that they claim is being used in iOS devices. The patent in question covers small speakers in an acoustically isolated environment (like a phone or tablet) reflecting the sound and shooting it down while still retaining quality, despite the fact that the “exhaust” is at a right angle to the actual drivers.
Looking at the patent, they may have a case. Apple has certainly been all about the down-firing speakers, employing them in all of their products in the last few years. The claims specifically cover the ultra-thin iMacs, iPhone 4S and up, and iPads.
THX has been in transition since being spun off from Lucasfilm. Theaters no longer see value in getting THX certification (my theater dropped it after the first year), and the only movies you see going through THX these days are from directors with existing ties to the company, like Spielberg. So in response, THX has been cooking up its own new technology, developing consumer-friendly software like the THX tune-up, and trying to become a company that’s active in bringing about the best in people’s devices, instead of affirming them after the fact.
Whether THX has a case against Apple is for the courts to decide, but a lot of eyes are probably watching, because the ruling could open up a lot of other device and computer manufacturers to patent lawsuits in this era of thin technology.