What just happened? Facebook parent Meta has been ordered to pay almost $175 million to the maker of a walkie-talkie app after a jury found it guilty of violating two patents held by Voxer. The lawsuit, initially filed in 2020, revolves around video streaming tech used by Facebook Live and Instagram Live.
Army veteran Tom Katis, a former Green Beret, began developing comms tech in 2006 after witnessing communication issues on the battlefield while serving in Afghanistan. Voxer’s complaint (via the LA Times) states that after reenlisting following 9/11 and serving as a communications sergeant with the Army Special Forces in 2003, his unit was ambushed, and he faced the shortcomings of existing systems while trying to coordinate medevacs and reinforcements.
Voxer launched its Walkie Talkie app in 2011. Facebook approached the company about a potential collaboration soon afterward. By 2012, Voxer had shared its patent portfolio and proprietary tech with the social media firm.
The meetings stalled, leading to Voxer identifying Facebook as a rival despite there being no Facebook Live or Instagram Live at the time. The company then revoked Voxer’s access “to key components of the Facebook platform.”
An Austin, Texas, court has just ruled that Facebook Live and Instagram Live infringed on two Voxer patents, both of which involve the transmission of streaming media.
In a UK trial, Facebook claimed Voxer had infringed on its intellectual property and wanted Voxer’s patents declared invalid. As per The Reg, Facebook argued that pause-and-continue live video existed before the patent was granted, and the patent should therefore be struck down.
Meta told the Times that it disputed Voxer’s claims, naturally, and it believes that evidence presented at the Texas trial showed that Meta did not infringe Voxer’s patents. It intends to seek further relief, including filing an appeal.
Having to hand over $175 million would be a big deal for most companies, but it’s not going to be felt much by Meta—assuming it losses the appeal. Mark Zuckerberg’s company’s net income was $6.7 billion in the April-June quarter.