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THX, Founded by George Lucas, Sues Apple in Patent Case

Apple Inc. was accused by THX Ltd., 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 yesterday in federal court in San Jose, 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.”

Once part of Lucasfilms, THX created a set of standards and a certification system for theater 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 Jan. 29 statement from THX. The app 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.

The case THX Ltd. v. Apple Inc., 13-01161, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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