A jury in a Texas federal court has ordered Meta to pay walkie-talkie app company Voxer more than $174.5 million in damages, according to court documents filed on Wednesday. Voxer, the creator of the Walkie Talkie app, first filed its lawsuit against Meta (formerly known as Facebook) in 2020 after it accused the company of infringing on its patents and incorporating its technology into Facebook Live and Instagram Live.
Voxer founder, Tom Katis, started developing the patents in question in 2006 as a way to solve battlefield communications problems he encountered while serving a Special Forces Communications Sergeant in Afghanistan. Katis and the Voxer team developed technology that enabled the transmission of live voice and video communications and launched the Walkie Talkie app in 2011.
Court documents say Meta approached Voxer about a potential collaboration soon after the app launched, after which Voxer disclosed its patent portfolio and proprietary technology to the tech giant. Once early meetings between the two companies did not lead to an agreement, Meta identified Voxer as a competitor despite not having its own live voice or live video product at the time. The company then revoked the Walkie Talkie app's access to key Facebook components, including removing access to the "Find Friends" feature.
"Facebook revoked Voxer’s access to key components of the Facebook platform and launched Facebook Live in 2015 followed by Instagram Live in 2016," the court documents read. "Both products incorporate Voxer’s technologies and infringe its patents."
The documents also say that Katis had a chance meeting with a senior product manager of Facebook Live in February 2016 to raise the issue of Facebook Live's infringement of Voxer's patents, after which Meta declined to enter an agreement with Voxer regarding its continued use of Voxer’s patented technologies. Meta then launched its Instagram Live offering in November 2016.
A Meta spokesperson disputed the claims in a statement sent to TechCrunch, arguing that the evidence presented at the trial showed that Meta did not infringe on Voxer’s patents.
“We believe the evidence at trial demonstrated that Meta did not infringe Voxer’s patents," the statement reads. "We intend to seek further relief, including filing an appeal.”