IP Law Daily Microphone patent infringement jury verdict against Amazon stands
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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Microphone patent infringement jury verdict against Amazon stands

By Linda O’Brien, J.D., LL.M.

Based on expert testimony, reasonable jurors could find that Amazon’s Echo products infringed the patent-at-issue.

There was substantial evidence to support a jury verdict against Amazon that its Echo products infringed a technology company’s patent related to microphone technology for smart speakers, the federal district court in Marshall, Texas, has ruled. There was expert testimony establishing that the accused products performed certain steps recited it the asserted claims and Amazon induced its customers to use its products in an infringing manner. Further, there was no manifest error that required additional findings of inequitable conduct or amending the final judgment. Accordingly, Amazon’s motions for judgment as a matter of law of non-infringement and for additional findings regarding inequitable conduct were denied (Vocalife LLC v. Amazon.com, Inc.,April 14, 2021, Gilstrap, J.).

Vocalife LLC is a technology company that develops and manufactures microphone arrays, noise cancellation, noise reduction, and speech enhancement systems. Vocalife holds U.S. Patent No. RE47,049 (the ’049 patent), which relates to a microphone array for use with smart speakers, robotic devices, smart appliances, and Internet platforms that require voice capture, speech recognition, and voice control. In April 2019, Vocalife filed suit against Amazon.com, Inc. and its subsidiary Amazon.com LLC, asserting that certain Amazon’s Echo products, which include virtual assistant smart speakers utilizing Amazon "Alexa" technology, infringed the ’049 patent.

In October 2020, a jury trial was held and the jury returned a verdict that Amazon infringed one or both of claims 1 or 8 of the ’049 patent and that neither of the asserted claims were invalid. The court entered a final judgment reflecting the jury verdict and issued an order holding that Amazon did not establish inequitable conduct in its assertion of unenforceability on the basis of inequitable conduct. Before the court were Amazon’s motion for additional findings regarding inequitable conduct and to alter or amend the final judgment, and motion for judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) of no induced infringement.

JMOL of non-infringement. There was substantial evidence that supported the jury’s verdict, the court found. Amazon’s argument that there was insufficient evidence it had knowledge that its customers were literally infringing the ’049 patent was rejected. It was undisputed that Amazon knew of the ’049 patent when Vocalife filed its complaint. Additionally, Vocalife’s expert’s testimony regarding his examination of Amazon’s marketing materials and user manuals as well as testing the behavior of Amazon’s accused products was substantial evidence that Amazon indirectly infringed the patent and knew or should have known that it has induced its customers to use Echo products in an infringing manner, the court noted.

Amazon’s contention that there was insufficient evidence that its customers directly infringed the patent-at-issue by performing certain steps recited in the asserted claims was also rejected. According to the court, Vocalife’s expert testified to the jury how the accused products performed the steps associated with the "determining a delay," "determining a delay based on said target sound signal," "delay represented in terms of number of samples," "plurality of configurations," "estimating a spatial location," and performing adaptive beamforming" limitations and cited to information in Amazon’s instructions provided to users on how to set up the Echo products. Thus, reasonable jurors could find that Amazon had the requisite intent based on the evidence presented.

Inequitable conduct. There was no manifest error requiring additional findings or an amended judgment, the court determined. Amazon’s contention – based on evidence at trial that the attorney who prosecuted the ’049 patent, a reissue patent, failed to check a box indicating the reissue application was for a broadening reissue was a false declaration – was not newly discovered evidence or a manifest error of law or fact requiring additional or amended findings. Instead Amazon merely took issue with the court’s holding that it failed to prove intent to deceive the USPTO. The evidence presented was carefully considered and Amazon’s disagreement with the court’s conclusion was no basis for additional or amending findings, the court stated.

This case is No. 2:19-cv-00123-JRG.

Attorneys: Alfred Ross Fabricant (Fabricant LLP) for Vocalife LLC. David J. Hadden (Fenwick & West LLP) for Amazon.com, Inc. and Amazon.com LLC.

Companies: Vocalife LLC; Amazon.com, Inc.; Amazon.com LLC

MainStory: TopStory Patent TechnologyInternet TexasNews GCNNews

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