By Emma Nitzsche 

 A federal jury in Waco, Texas, ruled in favor of Amazon after the company engaged in a patent trial against Freshub, an emerging Smart Kitchen Commerce technology company.

Freshub claimed that Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices used some of the same technology as its refrigerator camera. Freshub accused Amazon of reordering groceries, making lists, and notifying customers when its products were low or expired.

Freshub pointed to a family of patents (US 9,908,153US 10,213,810US 10,232,408, and US 10,239,094) that related to the technology utilized for scanning food products. The smart refrigerator camera could determine when a product will expire and then remind users to consume/use the expiring products on or before their expiration date. In addition, the patent disclosed technology to reorder products based on the expiration date, consumption patterns, delivery schedules, current household item inventory, and user preference.

Freshub claimed that Amazon knew of the company and its products, pointing to when individuals from each company participated in panels at a Smart Kitchen Summit in 2015 and 2018. Additionally, a representative from Freshub said Amazon engaged in discussions about a potential partnership in 2015. The previous conversations led Freshub to believe that Amazon knew of the company and its products when incorporating the same technology into Alexa assistant and Echo smart speakers.

In response, Amazon claimed inequitable conduct on the parent patent, US 9,821,344. According to Amazon, Freshub abandoned the parent patent application during prosecution, then tried to revive it again after its smart speakers hit the market.

Freshub filed the patent in 2005. In 2011, the pending claim was rejected, and the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) administered a Final Office Action. Unfortunately, Freshub failed to respond within a year, and the PTO sent a Notice of Abandonment of the parent patent application. But in 2017, Freshub filed a Petition for Revival and claimed unintentional abandonment of the application.

Amazon accused Freshub of manipulating patent applications and revisiting a failed application to ensure it covered Alexa and Echo after the products had already entered the market. Attorneys for Amazon said Freshub’s patents were invalid, and the company failed to persuade anyone else to license its patents or commercialize its ideas.

Amazon warned jurors that if Freshub won the trial, there would be more lawsuits against other technology businesses like Apple Inc. and Google Inc. The dispute represents a growing number of technology-based patent lawsuits, many of which are between direct competitors.