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Google Off the Hook for $85M Patent Judgment

(CN) - The Federal Circuit threw out an $85 million judgment against Google, finding the tech giant's Cloud Messenger service does not infringe on a 1996 patent.

SimpleAir owns a patent called "A System and Method for Transmission of Data" that describes a method of data communication between online and offline computers involving the wireless broadcasting of push notifications.

The patented system allows a user to choose their topics of interest, e.g. their favorite sports team, and receive messages updating them about the latest relevant news.

SimpleAir sued Google in 2011, claiming the company's Cloud Messenger and Cloud to Device Messenger infringed on the patent for its system.

In 2014, a Texas jury found that all of SimpleAir's claims were valid, and awarded the firm the largest patent verdict ever won against Google.

SimpleAir is a "patent troll" company that conducts no other business other than enforcing its patents.

It also sued other tech giants Microsoft, Apple, eBay, and Yahoo, but these defendants settled.

Google appealed to the Federal Circuit, arguing that the term "a data channel" asserted in one of SimpleAir's claims is indefinite as defined in the Supreme Court case Nautilus v. Biosig Instruments, and therefore the infringement claim could not stand.

On Friday, the Federal Circuit agreed, ruling that the lower court misconstrued the crucial phrase in the patent.

The disputed phrase states that the system "instantaneously notif[ies] said [remote] devices of receipt of said preprocessed data whether said devices are online or offline from a data channel associated with each device."

The patent was filed in 1996 when connecting to the internet required a dial-up, and clearly conceives that a user will be able to receive online information even when offline.

The trial judge understood this phrase broadly to encompass push notifications received only if a user is connected to the internet.

The Federal Circuit, however, was convinced by Google's alternate interpretation.

"Google asserts that if these terms are construed such that 'data channel' is 'a path different from a path through the receiver,' Google does not infringe because its 'accused system sends messages over the same communication path as other Internet data - it does not use a separate path,'" Judge Evan Wallach said, writing for the three-judge panel.

"In light of Google's uncontested assertion, we conclude 'no reasonable jury could have found infringement under the proper claim construction,'" Wallach continued.

Google also emerged victorious Friday in a second patent battle argued before a different panel of the Federal Circuit.

GeoTag accused Google's platform for displaying ads to users based on their search terms, called AdWords, of infringing on its patent for organizing a database by geography.

Judge Wallach, who also wrote the opinion in this case, found that AdWords searches its database by the user's search terms, and only then filters the results by geographic location, and so does not infringe on Geotag's patent.

"AdWords's performance of a broad search of all possible ads, without regard to geography, means that it has no need or opportunity to 'dynamically replicat[e]' entries from a broader geographic area into a narrower one, as the '474 patent claims," Wallach claims.

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