Amazon Sued for Patent Infringement by Flexiworld Technologies for Echo Smart Speakers, Earbuds and More
Flexiworld Technologies has sued Amazon over patent infringement. Last July, VB Assets filed a complaint claiming that Amazon was violating several patents through its Alexa voice assistant. Earlier this week, Amazon received a new complaint claiming infringement on patents through the sale of Amazon Echo smart speakers and related smart devices. Ten patents were listed in court documents with the suggestion that Amazon was in violation. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for Western Texas and says in part:
“Amazon has infringed and continues to infringe … [and is] offering for sale in the United States its Echo Buds, Echo Devices, Echo Show Devices, Fire Tablets, and/or Fire TV Devices.”
Several of the patents deal with touch screen input and wireless connectivity. However, two 2018 patent awards included a “sound output system or internet appliance that supports voice activated commands…” and “portable electronic device configured to receive voice activated commands, and to wirelessly manage or drive an output device.” The suit claims that “Amazon has not obtained a license to any of the Patents-in-Suit.
A Patent Holding Company?
Flexiworld Technologies appears to have been founded in Portland, Oregon in 2001 by William Ho Chang. The company currently shows its headquarters as residing in Vancouver, Washington. On initial examination, you might think that the company’s website has not been updated since at least 2006. The website copyright on the website says 2005-2006. The final entry in the News section of the website is dated October 7, 2005. However, if you go over to the Patents tab, you will find an entry as recently as August 20, 2019. The site lists 57 U.S. patents and 9 awarded in China. And, there are many more listed as applied. A scan of LinkedIn doesn’t list any current employees.
First Software, Then Hardware
You will note that VB Assets first filed violations in 2019 focused on the Alexa voice assistant software. Those complaints are currently working their way through the court system with some forms filed related to pre-trial discovery as recently as yesterday. Now the Flexiworld lawsuits includes at least nine hardware products including Echo Buds, Echo devices (including Echo, Echo Plus, and Echo Dot), Echo Show devices, Fire Tablets, and Fire TV devices.
Google is being sued by Sonos and the reverse is now also true. Mycroft is being sued for its open source voice assistant software. Amazon is also being sued by another party in lawsuit that claims violations of children’s privacy. What does this all mean? Well, there are no lawsuits in markets that don’t matter all that much. Voice matters a lot to a few large companies that make attractive targets for litigation.
Given the targets of Flexiworld’s lawsuit (smart speakers, earbuds, media controllers), you can expect Google, Samsung, and Apple to eventually be targets as well, provided that the company is successful in court. It may be too costly to go after each of these companies in parallel but a win against one would make it easier to win over many.
Voicebot has reached out to Amazon for a comment on the story. We will update the response here if Amazon responds.