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  • Parv Jain

Google's AI Patents Under Fire: Company Faces $1.67 Billion in Legal Damages

Updated: Jan 11

Google's AI Patents Under Fire

Google is currently involved in a major legal battle in Boston. The tech giant is facing a lawsuit from Singular Computing, a company founded by Joseph Bates, a computer scientist from Massachusetts. Bates is demanding Google pay $1.67 billion for using his patented technology without permission. This technology is said to be crucial for the processors that run artificial intelligence in Google's products.

Bates' lawyer has argued in court that Google took Bates' ideas after several meetings where they discussed his innovations, which are essential for AI development. The jury is now deciding whether Google should compensate Bates' company for allegedly infringing on these patents.

The lawyer representing Joseph Bates, Kerry Timbers, claimed in court that Google secretly used Bates' computer-processing technology without his permission. According to Timbers, from 2010 to 2014, Bates shared his innovative ideas with Google, hoping for a partnership. However, instead of legally licensing Bates' technology, Google allegedly copied it to create its own AI chips.

These chips, known as Tensor Processing Units, are now a key part of Google's services. They help power AI features in popular Google applications like Google Search, Gmail, and Google Translate. Timbers argued that Bates' technology played a crucial role in developing these advanced Google services.

In the court case against Google, lawyer Kerry Timbers referred to internal company emails as evidence. These emails included messages from Jeff Dean, Google's current chief scientist. In one email, Dean mentioned that Joseph Bates' ideas would fit well with what Google was working on. Another Google employee admitted in an email that they were heavily influenced by Bates' concepts.

Timbers emphasized the importance of basic principles in his opening statement to the jury. He said, "This case is about fundamental values that we all know: respecting others, not taking things that aren't yours, and giving credit where it's deserved." He argued that Google failed to follow these principles by using Bates' technology without permission or acknowledgment.

In a court case in Boston, Google's lawyer, Robert Van Nest, responded to the lawsuit by Singular Computing. He said that Google's team who made the AI chips had never met with Joseph Bates, who claims his technology was used without permission. Van Nest suggested that Bates had unsuccessfully tried to get big companies like Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, and OpenAI to use his ideas. He also mentioned that Bates' technology wasn't entirely accurate.

Van Nest emphasized that Google's AI chips are very different from what Bates' patents describe. Initially, Singular Computing wanted up to $7 billion from Google, but in court, they asked for $1.67 billion.

Google started using its own AI chips in 2016 for things like understanding speech and recommending ads. Singular says that the newer versions of these chips, released in 2017 and 2018, used their patented ideas.

On the same day, another court in Washington was discussing whether Singular's patents should be considered valid. This discussion was part of a separate case that Google had appealed against a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.


Q1: What is the lawsuit against Google about?

Singular Computing, founded by Joseph Bates, is suing Google for $1.67 billion. They claim Google used Bates' patented technology in their AI processors without permission.

Q2: What does Joseph Bates claim in the lawsuit?

Bates claims that Google copied his technology after discussing a potential partnership, instead of legally licensing it.

Q3: What are Tensor Processing Units?

Tensor Processing Units, or TPUs, are Google's AI chips that power features in services like Google Search, Gmail, and Google Translate.

Q4: Did any other companies show interest in Bates' technology?

According to Google's lawyer, Bates unsuccessfully tried to convince companies like Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, and OpenAI to use his technology.


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