Amazon To Pay $46M For Infringing Patents
Amazon has been ordered by a federal court to pay $46.7 million USD for the infringement on four patents around the company’s Echo smart speakers and Alexa assistant.
A lawsuit by VB Assets, previously known as VoiceBox Technologies, claimed it already invented a circular speaker that had the ability to connect to the internet and answer voice-dictated prompts, with a female, robotic voice.
A judgement on Wednesday ordered Amazon to pay the sum via running royalty rather than a lump sum. This ruling comes after a jury verdict found Amazon infringed on four patents from VoiceBox.
Said patents relate to providing network-coordinated conversational services, tying advertisements to natural language processing of voice-based input, and a conversational voice user interface.
Amazon has time to appeal, and VoiceBox has time to seek reimbursement for related costs.
VoiceBox claimed it developed a prototype of something similar to Echo & Alexa long before Amazon’s products were announced.
The lawsuit, filed in 2019, included a link to a video on YouTube, which appeared to be a news report about the company’s ‘Cybermind’ prototype. It showed an individual asking the speaker questions such as “Computer, what is the forecast for Sunday?”
The user also asked prompts, such as “Computer, find me a good recipe for chocolate cheesecake.” A voice from the speaker responded by reportedly pulling answers from the Internet or a connected computer.
The lawsuit also claimed VoiceBox demoed a voice assistant for Lexus cars called Alexus “that showcased the power of its conversational Voice technology.”
It claimed the “’Alexus’ concept was introduced to the public more than six months before Amazon announced ‘Alexa.'”
Finally, the suit claimed Amazon invited employees from VoiceBox into meetings about its technologies, and ended up ripping off ideas and poaching employees.
The suit noted VoiceBox first met up with Amazon in 2011, “to explore a potential business relationship where VoiceBox Technologies would provide core [natural language understanding] services to Amazon.”
Amazon announced the Echo and Alexa in 2014. There are also claims VoiceBox had meetings about its patents with Amazon in 2017.
This new judgment contrasts a 2021 verdict which found Alexa doesn’t infringe upon patents by IPA Technologies Inc.
Towards the end of last year, it was reported Alexa could lose Amazon $10 billion that year. This number was never confirmed by Amazon. The company are also losing long-time devices head, David Limp this year.
In September, Amazon revealed its generative AI Alexa ambitions and hopes it will become so advanced, consumers will be willing to pay a subscription fee to use its features. This idea is still years away.