Verizon hit with whopping $847M verdict for infringing 5G and hotspot patents

Must be hard to face a huge, unexpected bill, amirite?

In one of the most massive patent verdicts in legal history, a federal jury in East Texas has ordered cellular giant Verizon to pay patentholder General Access Solutions $847 million.

That's a $583 million "reasonable royalty" for infringing US Patent No 7,230,931 (the '931) patent, and $264 million for infringing the other, 9,426,794 ('794), a jury decided [PDF] late last week.

Verizon banked a $12 billion profit in 2023, so the judgment represents seven percent of that annual income, or about 26 days of annual profit.

Dallas-based non-practicing entity General Access, which acquired the patents from original inventor Raze Technologies, claims elements of Verizon's 5G wireless networks, smartphone hotspots, wireless home routers, and MiFi devices violate its intellectual property.

It claims in the original complaint [PDF] that Verizon's base station equipment infringes its '931 patent – to do with beamforming networks across cell sites – and that Verizon wireless devices that receive 4G and 5G cell signals infringe its '794 patent when they route information to mobile stations using 802.11 Wi-Fi comms protocols.

According to the complaint, devices that infringe '734 include Wi-Fi home or office routers with cellular backhaul, Wi-Fi "hotspots," and even smartphones that have Wi-Fi hotspot functionality. Both patents were originally filed in 2001.

Verizon argued that the patents were invalid due to a lack of written description and/or not being "fully enabled," but the jury ticked "no" on the form when asked if it agreed with this.

District Judge Rodney Gilstrap allowed Ericsson to act as intervenor on February 22, 2023. Ericsson makes some of the allegedly infringing kit, including base stations, and sells it to Verizon.

Legal news website Law360 has noted that Ericsson will be on the hook for part of that verdict, if it stands. It added that such high verdicts "are often overturned or trimmed by the Federal Circuit."

Ericsson told us: "The judicial process is ongoing, and we will therefore refrain from commenting on the details of it. We do however strongly disagree with the jury's verdict and continue to support Verizon in its vigorous challenge to the result."

The Reg has asked Verizon for comment. ®

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