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Google Told to Pay $85 Million in Web Patent Trial

Google Inc.’s Android operating system is the most popular platform for mobile devices. Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg
Google Inc.’s Android operating system is the most popular platform for mobile devices. Photographer: Tony Avelar/Bloomberg

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. was ordered today by a jury in Texas to pay $85 million to SimpleAir Inc. for using the closely held company’s technology for transmitting Internet-based data to computers and mobile devices without a license.

SimpleAir, a technology licensing company, had been seeking as much as $146 million in the trial before a federal jury in Marshall, Texas. Google said the invention was worth no more than $6 million. A different jury in January found that Google infringed a patent issued in 2006, though it was unable to reach an agreement on how much the company should pay.

The case focused on Google Cloud Messaging and Cloud to Device Messaging, which process and send notification messages to smartphones and tablet computers that run on Google’s Android operating system, the most popular platform for mobile devices.

“The jury awarded far less than SimpleAir’s excessive demand, but we continue to believe we do not infringe and are considering our options,” said Matt Kallman, a spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google.

In the January trial, Google denied infringing the patent and claimed it didn’t represent a new invention. It also argued that, because Facebook Inc. licenses the SimpleAir patent, royalties shouldn’t include any applications provided through the social-networking site.

Patent Inventors

SimpleAir, based in Plano, Texas, was founded by two of the patent’s inventors to license their technology, which originated with an unsuccessful company called AirMedia, said Jeff Eichmann, a patent lawyer with Dovel & Luner in Santa Monica, California, who represents SimpleAir.

“It was only after the smartphone market took off that the true value of the invention saw commercial success,” he said in an interview. “This is the result of a lot of years of hard work of two inventors who were a decade ahead of their time. We’re happy the jury came back and agreed that Google needs to be held responsible and pay its share of royalties.”

SimpleAir initially filed the complaint in September 2011 against companies including Microsoft Corp., Nokia Oyj and Samsung Electronics Co. Those companies settled, leaving Google and its Motorola Mobility unit in the trial before U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap. Eichmann said Apple Inc. and BlackBerry Ltd. also have licensed the technology.

While the patent was issued in 2006, SimpleAir claimed it covers technology first developed a decade earlier. It took about seven years for the patent application to get approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The case is SimpleAir Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., 11cv416, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net Elizabeth Wasserman, Romaine Bostick

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