The parent company of Facebook and Instagram was sentenced to pay nearly $ 175 million for infringing on patents held by the creator of a push-to-talk app founded by a former Green Beret who tried to solve communication problems on the battlefield he had encountered in Afghanistan.
A federal jury in Austin, Texas ruled for a day before finding that Meta Platforms Inc. infringed two patents held by Voxer Inc. and awarded Voxer $ 174.5 million in damages, according to court documents. filed Wednesday.
Voxer accused Menlo Park, California, the social media giant of taking its proprietary streaming technologies and incorporating them into Facebook Live and Instagram Live after a potential collaboration failed.
Tom Katis, co-founder and CEO of Voxer until 2015, was inspired by his experiences on the battlefield to find a new technology that could enable the transmission of voice and video communications “with the immediacy of live communication and the reliability and convenience of messaging “, according to court records.
He re-enlisted after 9/11 and was serving as a communications sergeant with the Army Special Forces in 2003 when his unit was ambushed and faced shortcomings in existing systems while trying to coordinate medevac. and reinforcements, according to Voxer’s complaint.
Voxer launched the Voxer Walkie Talkie app in 2011, and Facebook soon reached out to the company for a potential collaboration, court documents say.
In February 2012, Voxer had shared its patent portfolio and proprietary technology with Facebook, but when early meetings failed to lead to a deal, “Facebook identified Voxer as a competitor although Facebook had no live video at the time. or speech products, “the documents stated.
The social media giant then revoked Voxer’s access to “key components of the Facebook platform,” according to court documents.
The jury found that both Facebook Live, launched in 2015, and Instagram Live, launched in 2016, “incorporate Voxer’s technologies” and infringed two Voxer patents.
The first concerns a system that progressively transmits streaming media over a network “while the streaming media is created and stored in a persistent way, thus allowing hybrid digital communications that can be both real-time and time-shifted; and providing video communications without first establishing an end-to-end connection on the network between the sender and the recipient.
The second also provides for the transmission of streaming media, “generating two or more degraded versions of a streaming video message and transmitting an adequate degraded version to each recipient; and transcoding the video medium of a video message, “according to the documents.
In early 2016, Voxer met with senior Facebook executives and sent out a statement outlining the app’s patent portfolio “and specifically referring to the patent families” of all patents that Meta would be charged with infringing, according to court documents.
Katis had a “chance meeting” with a Facebook Live senior product manager in late February 2016 and raised the issue of the platform’s patent infringement, encouraging the product manager to follow Facebook’s senior executives, the documents say.
“Facebook has prioritized live video messaging since the launch of Facebook Live and Instagram Live, with a report identifying Facebook Live as Facebook’s ‘top priority’,” according to the documents.
In a statement to the Times, a spokesperson for Meta disputed the claims, saying the company believes the evidence presented at the trial proved that Meta did not infringe on Voxer’s patents.
“We intend to ask for further relief, including filing an appeal,” the spokesman said.
A Meta lawyer submitted a request for a declaration to the company.
Voxer’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.