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SimpleAir awarded $85M in patent case

By Robin Y. Richardson
March 20, 2014 at 10 p.m.


Following a three-day trial, a local federal jury, on Wednesday, ordered Google to pay SimpleAir $85 million for infringing its patent relating to push notification services in Smartphones.

"Google has profited greatly from infringing SimpleAir's patent," said Jeff Eichman, co-counsel for SimpleAir. "The jury's substantial award shows they understood that and rejected Google's claim that the technology is not important.

"We appreciate the jury's service as well as the court getting the damages trial on (the) calendar so quickly after the last one," he said.

SimpleAir, a technology licensing company, won its patent infringement suit against Google in January; but, because jurors in that trial were unable to reach a decision on the amount of damages SimpleAir should be awarded due to Google's infringement, a new trial to contend damages was granted.

"Your job in this case is to solely determine the amount to award SimpleAir for compensation for Google's infringement," U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who presided over the case, said to jurors, noting damages should be assessed between the time period of May 2010 to when SimpleAir won its trial this January and only awarded based on any use of the accused serves in the United States and not other countries.

"In this case, SimpleAir seeks a reasonable royalty," Gilstrap said, noting that's the dollar amount SimpleAir and Google would have agreed upon, hypothetically, for use of the infringement.

The case is the first of three lawsuits SimpleAir filed against Google. In this suit, SimpleAir alleged that, as a "push notification provider," Google's push notification services for the Android Smartphones and tablets infringed the claims in the patent.

The accused services in the suit are the Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) and Android Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) services. The services are used by Google to process and send instant notifications for Android applications, such a Facebook, Twitter and Gmail.

In closing arguments, Greg Dovel for SimpleAir asked jurors to award the company between $127 million and $146 million for Google's past infringement, covering May 2010 to January 2014.

"Blackberry, Microsoft and Apple each used our patent. Google used the patent the most - five times more than Apple," said Dovel. "They owe between $127 million and $146 million."

Mitch Stockwell, representing Google, asked the jury to order his client to pay SimpleAir no more than $6 million for any infringement - period.

"It's fair and it's reasonable to both sides," Stockwell said of his request. "It's a lot of money for one patent. It's more money than all the other ones have paid them, including Apple."

Stockwell said Google made a $6 million offer before, and SimpleAir rejected it.

"We put $6 million on the table and they said no," said Stockwell. "We think (it's) because they want something unreasonable and unfair."

Jeff Eichman, co-counsel for SimpleAir, said they didn't come to court trying to trump up the damages.

"We are presenting the exact same evidence and arguments that we'd present to any other member of this community," he said. "Can you look at the (inventors) and understand a small company of two inventors can be entitled to so much money from a company the size of Google?"

"The law requires you give the inventors what they are entitled to, which is a reasonable royalty under the law," Eichman told jurors.

Dovel, also for SimpleAir, said Google's profits increased because of SimpleAir's patent.

"Notifications started off slow, but became a very popular feature," said Dovel, adding the feature is important to those who use Smartphones.

"It matters because Google makes money when Androids are put into use," said Dovel. "As a result of adding the notification features, more phones were put into use, more phones were sold as compared to iPhones."

"We don't claim our feature was responsible for every bit of the increase (in sales), but it was responsible for a substantial part of it," said Dovel. "The more Android phones put in use, the more money Google makes."

He said, in 2013 alone, revenue from Android phones amounted to at least $5.4 billion.

"The market's willingness to pay for that one (notification) feature increased by $12.23," said Dovel, noting that, on average, Google received $3.10 per phone for the usage.

He said at least 30 percent should go to SimpleAir.

"That means 93 cents a phone because, without that patent, that $3.10 wouldn't be in their bank account," Dovel said.

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