Google and the $1.67B Damage Demand

Google appeared before a federal jury in Boston, arguing against a computer scientist’s claims that it should pay his company $1.67 billion for infringing patents. The alleged infringing patents cover processors used by Google to power its products.

Singular Computing, founded by computer scientist Joseph Bates, claimed that Google copied Bates’ technology after repeatedly meeting him to discuss his ideas to solve a problem central to AI development. Bates’ lawyer, Kerry Timbers, said that when Bates shared his computer-processing innovations with Google from 2010 to 2014, Google copied his patented technology rather than licensing it. Google allegedly used his innovations in Google’s Tensor Processing Units to support AI features in Google Search, Gmail, Google Translate, and other Google services.

Internal emails cited show that Google’s now-chief scientist, Jeff Dean, wrote that Bates’ ideas could be “really well suited” for what Google was developing. Another employee said in an email that they were “quite corrupted by Joe’s ideas.”

Google, however, countered that its employees who designed its chips never met Bates and developed them independently of the workers who did. Google called Bates a “a disappointed inventor” and cited his inability to convince such companies as Meta Platforms, Microsoft, Inc, and ChatGPT-creator OpenAI to use his technology.

Initially, Singular Computing requested up to $7 billion in monetary damages for infringing its two patents, but at trial the amount became $1.67 billion.

The claim that versions 2 and 3 of Google’s processing units introduced in 2016 to power AI for speech recognition, content generation, ad recommendation, and other functions violates the patent rights.

A U.S. appeals court in Washington also heard arguments on Tuesday about whether to invalidate Singular’s patents in a separate case that Google appealed from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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