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Amazon wins appeal after contentious Alexa grocery-ordering patent trial

Post Time:2024-02-27 Source:Reuters Author:Blake Brittain Views:

Feb 26 (Reuters) - Amazon (AMZN.O), convinced a U.S. appeals court on Monday to uphold a jury's verdict that its Alexa voice-assistant software did not infringe patents owned by smart-kitchen startup Freshub, in a case where a Texas judge previously sanctioned Freshub's attorneys for making improper allegations of antisemitism during a trial.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a Waco, Texas, federal jury's verdict, that Amazon did not infringe the patents and rejected Freshub's argument that the tech giant's attorneys made prejudicial statements to the jury based on Freshub's status as an Israeli company.

Freshub's lead attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.

Freshub sued Amazon in 2019. It said that Amazon copied its patented innovations, which relate to the use of voice-processing technology to create and manage shopping lists, and that the companies had discussed collaborating as recently as that year.

A jury found in 2021 that the voice-shopping system on Amazon's Alexa-enabled products did not infringe three Freshub patents. Freshub later argued in a request for a new trial that Amazon had prejudiced the jury by invoking a "dog whistle" stereotype of "greedy Jewish executives of an Israeli company allegedly taking advantage of U.S. companies."

U.S. District Judge Alan Albright rejected Freshub's motion and ordered the company's attorneys to take 30 hours of continuing legal education courses on legal ethics.

"A bitter losing party's difficulty in explaining its loss is never a proper basis for counsel to invoke baseless allegations of racism and anti-Semitism to request a new trial," Albright said in a 2021 order. "Such vitriolic and unsubstantiated allegations are not only shocking, but also offensive to this Court."

Freshub argued on appeal that a new trial was necessary because Amazon had improperly painted it as a "bad actor" based on the timing of its patent applications and made nationalistic "'us versus them' arguments" that biased the jury.

The Federal Circuit on Monday affirmed that Amazon's technology did not infringe Freshub's patents and denied Freshub's request for a new trial.

The appeals court also rejected Amazon's request to declare one of Freshub's patents invalid.