Patent battle over Facebook Live and 'walkie talkie' tech rattles through High Court in London

Sueball sees social network squaring off against app upstart in UK branch of worldwide fight


A legal battle between a company which says Facebook Live infringes one of its patents and the anti-social networking biz is currently playing out in the High Court of England and Wales as part of a long-running multinational legal battle.

Voxer, which The Register briefly covered in 2011 when it launched its “walkie-talkie for the modern age”, is locked in a courtroom skirmish with Facebook over a patent for its live streaming video technology.

The case is notable because Facebook claims Voxer infringed its intellectual property and wants Voxer’s patent declared invalid. For its part, Voxer wants to alter its disputed IP, EU patent 2,393,259, and then have the High Court declare that it doesn’t infringe any of Facebook’s patents for its Live technology.

For its part, Facebook contends that Voxer’s patent was wrongly granted because prior art for pause-and-continue live video existed before the patent was granted and it should therefore be struck down.

As people below the age of 35 and who don’t care much about privacy know, Facebook Live is a live streaming function. Its unique selling point is that viewers of the stream can pause and rewind it to re-watch parts at their leisure before jumping back to the live stream again.

Legal arguments made by Voxer and seen by The Register show the company argued that its own live functionality was, so it said, fundamentally different to Facebook Live because the live stream in Voxer’s case was “asynchronous”, rather than the time-linked “synchronous” function that Facebook Live was said to depend upon.

The case has a very strong international dimension; last year Voxer sued Facebook in Texas, USA, claiming the social networking website stole its IP for Facebook Live. Facebook disputes that claim and the legal proceedings are ongoing.

Patent barrister Jane Lambert observed last July that the legal battle has a potential EU-wide dimension as well, having been started long before the UK formally left the political bloc earlier this year.

The High Court case, before Lord Justice Birss, was scheduled to end yesterday with judgment expected in June. ®

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