Meta has been ordered to pay Voxer — creator of the Walkie Talkie messaging app — over $174 million in damages after a jury in Texas federal court found the social media giant guilty of violating two live-streaming patents with Facebook Live and Instagram Live.
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The patents in question were developed by Voxer co-founder Tom Katis, a US Army veteran seeking to fix the shortcomings he experienced in battlefield communications after his combat unit was ambushed in Kunar Province in 2003. Katis and his team began developing communications solutions in 2006, resulting in new technology that enabled the transmission of live voice and video communications. Voxer was then formed in 2007, and the Walkie Talkie app was launched in 2011.
Court filings state that Meta (then known as Facebook) approached Voxer soon after the app’s launch looking to collaborate and that by February 2012, Voxer had disclosed its patent portfolio and proprietary technology to Meta. When the two companies failed to reach an agreement to work together, Meta identified Voxer as a competitor, according to Voxer’s complaint, despite having no live video or voice product of its own at the time. Meta then revoked Voxer’s access to key components of the Facebook platform, behavior described as bullying at the time. Facebook Live launched in 2015 followed by Instagram Live in 2016.
Katis says he raised the issue of patent infringement during a “chance meeting” with a senior product manager of Facebook Live in 2016, but according to court documents, Meta declined to enter any agreement regarding its continued use of Voxer’s technology.
The jury’s unanimous decision in the case awards Voxer a total sum of $174,530,785, which is to be paid out via a running royalty. Meta says it will appeal the decision. “We believe the evidence at trial demonstrated that Meta did not infringe Voxer’s patents,” a company spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry. “We intend to seek further relief, including filing an appeal.”