A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has overturned a March 2014 jury verdict in Texas ordered Google to pay $85 million for violating a mobile notification patent belonging to SimpleAir, a technology licensing company
In a relatively brief 21-page ruling last Friday the judges held that the jury found infringement only because of the manner in which the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas had allowed certain critical terms in the patent to be incorrectly defined.
"No reasonable jury could find infringement under the correct constructions," of the terms, the judges noted in their ruling while ordering the court to enter a judgment of non-infringement in favor of Google.
The dispute involves Google's Cloud Messaging service and its now defunct Android Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) service for processing and pushing notifications from servers to Android applications.
SimpleAir contended that the technology infringed on a patent filed in 1996 patents pertaining to a method for transmitting information to remote computers when they are online or offline. Of particular interest in the case was a method the patent described for communicating with offline devices.
The company claimed that Google was profiting enormously from the technology while infringing on the SimpleAir patent billions of times a day when pushing out alerts and notifications to some 60,000 Android apps on hundreds of millions of Android devices.
Federal district court in Texas held that certain terms used in the patent description, such as "data channel" and "transmission gateway" where succinct and clear enough for the jury to determine if Google had infringed on the patent. Google had argued that the terms were too indefinite and maintained that it had not infringed on the patent even if the terms were applied as construed by the court.
During the trial, SimpleAir had argued that it was owed between $127 million and $146 million in damages for Google's past use of its technology alone. In the damages phase of the trial, Google itself argued that it should not have to pay more than $6 million for both past infringement and potential future use of the technology that SimpleAir had claimed back when the jury verdict was announced.
After the jury found Google guilty of infringement and awarded $85 million in damages to SimpleAir, Google tried and failed to get the court to throw out the decision. In its appeal, Google challenged both how the lower court had construed the meaning of certain terms in the SimpleAir patent and the size of the damages awarded against it.
For SimpleAir, this marks this second defeat in court against Google. After the original $85 million verdict, the company filed another infringement lawsuit against Google for allegedly violating another two patents. This time, however, the jury found no infringement by Google.
A lawyer for SimpleAir did not respond to a request for comment on the appellate court's ruling.