Google ordered to pay $85M in patent suit about push notifications

Facebook on Android

Google sends push notifications for Android apps such as Facebook

A jury wants Google to pay $85 million in damages to SimpleAir in an ongoing case that points to the increasingly important role of push notifications for mobile.

The patent in question covers a system and method for data communication connecting online networks computers in real-time. SimpleAir had been seeking as much as $146 million in the trial while Google said the claims were worth no more than $6 million and that it is considering its options as it continues to believe no infringement was involved.

The news that it was penalized $85M is insignificant to Google given their $50B in annual revenues, said Robert Gueph, president of management consulting firm Enable Communications. They may have not settled initially just to make a point about patent trolls.

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How much Simple Air charges for licensing fees will be the next question, he said. I doubt they could justify any licensing fee much higher than they have the other major players already.

However, if they try, Google probably can threaten them with their own workaround.

Real-time notifications
SimpleAirs allegations address that Googles Cloud Messaging and Android Cloud to Device Messaging services, which process and send push notifications for Androids apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Gmail, infringe SimpleAirs technology.

The patent infringement allegations were part of a claim originally filed in 2011 against multiple parties including Microsoft, Samsung and Nokia.

The other firms eventually settled with SimpleAir. Apple and BlackBerry also have reportedly licensed the technology.

A jury unanimously determined in January that Google infringed all five asserted patent claims from SimpleAir, with the issue of damages handled by a separate trial that concluded last week.

Future proceedings are expected to address allegations of ongoing or future infringement, as SimpleAir owns the patent through 2017.

Future damages
The amount of the damages awarded by the jury is not a significant blow to Google. However, the amount only covers damages for current infringement.

Future damages will be decided at later hearings.

The patent was issued in 2006, SimpleAir claims the patent, which was issued in 2006, covers technology first developed a decade earlier but for which the potential was not clear until the smartphone market took off.

Push notifications are an important new channel because these alerts can help increase traffic, optimize app use and drive conversions. As the time spent on apps continues to grow, the importance of push notifications is also growing.

For example, 76 percent of European smartphone-owning online adults who use apps receive push notifications, according to a report from Forrester (see story).

Patent wars
Google sends push notifications for more than 60,000 apps on Android devices.

As push notifications have grown, this segment could become a bigger focus of patent infringement suits going forward.

Patent infringement allegations have been a big issue in mobile as companies recognize the significant growth potential in the market and look to protect their own turf as much as possible.

Google has long claimed to be the victim of others using patents to gain a competitive advantage in the mobile market. However, an investigation launched by the Federal Trade Commission in 2012 into Googles use of standard essential patents called into question the companys own actions.

I would guess that push notifications will continue without interruption and that brand marketers can rely on their availability, Mr. Gueph said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York


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