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SimpleAir Suit: Google Doesn't Have to Pay $85 Million After All

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 07, 2016 6:57 AM

Google has walked away victorious in a suit brought against it first in 2011 by SimpleAir in which allegations that Google violated patent law with its cloud computing services. Judge Wallach concluded that "no reasonable jury could have found patent infringement" under proper claim construction.

It's shaping up to be a good couple of days for the giant Internet company as it also posted a victory in its legal dispute with GeoTag.

SimpleAir: Attack of the Patent Troll

By now, the term "the cloud" is so ubiquitous that few people are even aware of its key characteristics. It seems just like any other thing that is part of this the IoT.

But for years, the company SimpleAir has owned the patent entitled "A System and Method for Transmission of Data" (ironically listed on Google's patents page). The patent allows for a system user to be notified of updates in new topics -- a feature that is so common that it hardly seems the topic of such contested litigation. In 2011, SimpleAir sued Google on allegations that Google's Cloud Messenger infringed on its patents.

In 2014, a federal court jury agreed with SimpleAir and awarded the company $85 million in damages. Other companies had also been the target of SimpleAir and had opted to settle out instead.

What's a Data Channel?

Google appealed to the Federal Circuit and argued that the key term that was dispositive in the case -- "Data Channel" -- was so vague as to be completely unpatentable. More importantly, however, the SimpleAir patent was filed with the USPTO at a time when being connected to the Internet required going through dial-up; and the Federal Circuit determined that push notifications could only be received if connected via dial-up. This distinction would spell a reversal and win for Google.

Other Victories

Google will have to thank Judge Wallach (who wrote the opinion) for his kind favor because Google also won in his court in the case of Google v. GeoTag. In that case, GeoTag alleged that Google had infringed on its advertising patents by gathering searchers by geographical location. But Judge Wallach concluded that Google first batched people by search terms, and then separated them by geography, thus steering clear of infringement.

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