Dolby Sues Research In Motion Over Audio-Quality Patents

Dolby Laboratories Inc. said it filed infringement lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany against Research In Motion Ltd., claiming the BlackBerry maker refused to pay royalties on patents related to audio quality.

Dolby is seeking an order that would halt sales of RIM’s BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook tablet computer, as well as cash compensation, according to a statement today from the company. Complaints were filed in district court in San Francisco and in Mannheim, Germany, Dolby said.

The patents cover ways to compress digital audio files in a way that uses less storage capacity while maintaining quality, San Francisco-based Dolby said. The technology has been incorporated into an industry standard for audio coding that “all other major smartphone makers have agreed to license” except Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM, Dolby said.

“Litigation was regrettably our last resort after RIM declined to pay for the use of Dolby’s technology,” Dolby General Counsel Andy Sherman said in the statement. “We have a duty to protect our intellectual property.”

Marisa Conway, a spokeswoman for RIM, said the company doesn’t comment on litigation.

According to the complaint filed today in San Francisco, Dolby invented technology known as “spectral band replication” and “parametric stereo” that “represented a quantum leap forward in compression efficiency, and which were perfected only after years of research and development.”

Dolby Complaint

The companies licensing the patents include Apple Inc., HTC Corp., LG Electronics Inc., Nokia Oyj and Samsung Electronics Co., Dolby said. Via Licensing Corp., a company designated to handle licensing of the Dolby patents, first contacted RIM in November 2006 and again in 2007. Talks continued through the early part of this year, Dolby said in complaint.

“To date, RIM has steadfastly refused to execute any license concerning the patents in suit, ignoring Via’s attempts to restart a dialogue with RIM,” Dolby said in the suit. “At no time has RIM ever suggested that its products do not infringe the patents in suit, nor has it ever asserted that the patents in suit were invalid or unenforceable.”

The RIM products targeted by the complaint include the BlackBerry Storm, Tour, Pearl, Curve and Torch models, as well as the PlayBook, which was introduced in April to challenge Apple’s market-leading iPad.

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