Meta is facing a $175 million patent ruling in the Facebook Live case

The parent company of Facebook and Instagram has been ordered to pay nearly $175 million for infringing patents on the maker of a push-to-talk app founded by former Green Beret who sought to solve battlefield communications problems he faced in Afghanistan.

A federal jury in Austin, Texas, deliberated for a day before finding out that Meta Platforms had infringed on two patents owned by Voxer Inc. Voxer was awarded $174.5 million in damages, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Voxer has accused social media giant Menlo Park, Calif., of taking its broadcast technologies and integrating them into Facebook Live and Instagram Live after a potential collaboration failed.

Tom Katis, the co-founder and CEO of Voxer until 2015, was inspired by his battlefield experiences to find new technology that could enable the transmission of voice and video communications “with direct communication and the reliability and convenience of messages,” according to court documents.

He had re-enlisted after 9/11 and was serving as a communications sergeant with Army Special Forces in 2003 when his unit was ambushed and encountered deficiencies in existing systems while trying to coordinate first aid and reinforcements, according to a Foxer complaint.

Voxer launched the Voxer Walkie Talkie app in 2011, and Facebook quickly contacted the company about a potential collaboration, court documents said.

By February 2012, Voxer shared its patent portfolio and technology with Facebook, but when early meetings failed to reach an agreement, “Facebook identified Voxer as a competitor even though Facebook had no live video or audio product at the time,” The documents are advertised.

Then, the social media giant 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, “integrate Voxer technologies” and infringe two Voxer patents.

The first includes a system that gradually conveys streaming media over a network “where the streaming media is continuously created and stored, thus enabling hybrid digital communications that can be real-time and time-shifting; and by delivering video communications without creating an end-to-end connection over the network between sender and receiver “.

The second also involves sending streaming media, “by creating two or more degraded copies of a streaming video message and sending an appropriate degraded copy to each recipient; and by converting video media to a video message,” according to the documents.

In early 2016, Voxer met with senior Facebook executives and sent out a statement that outlined the app’s patent portfolio and “specifically referred to patent families” of all patents that Meta would be accused of infringing, according to court documents.

The documents said Katis had a “accidentally encountered” with a senior product manager on Facebook Live in late February 2016 and raised the platform’s patent infringement case, encouraging the product manager to follow up with senior Facebook executives.

According to the documents, “Facebook has prioritized live video messaging since the launch of Facebook Live and Instagram Live, with one report identifying Facebook Live as “Facebook’s top priority.”

In a statement to The Times, a Meta spokesperson disputed the allegations, saying the company believes evidence presented in the trial showed Meta did not infringe Voxer’s patents.

“We intend to seek further relief, including filing an appeal,” the spokesperson said.

Meta’s attorney forwarded an affidavit request to the company.

Voxer’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

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