Amazon ordered to pay $47m over Alexa patent violations

Amazon has been ordered to pay $46.7 million in damages after a Delaware federal court found that its Alexa virtual assistant violates a series of patents.

The patents, held by VB Assets, are related to speech recognition and natural language processing. VB Assets and its predecessor VoiceBox Technologies created voice-control software for a number of top carmakers.

The company accused Amazon of infringing four patents around voice-based search technology in a 2019 lawsuit. The lawsuit notes that representatives from VoiceBox first met with Amazon executives in 2011 to discuss integrating its tech into Amazon products.

Amazon would subsequently launch the first Alexa-equipped Echo smart speaker in 2014, and Alexa has now become one of the company’s most noteworthy and successful products.

In its lawsuit, VB added that Amazon began poaching ‘dozens’ of VoiceBox staff in 2016 and that the companies met again about its patents the following year.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, Amazon confirmed that it has begun to cut jobs in its music streaming unit.

Reuters reports that staff in Latin America, North America and Europe received notice that their roles had been eliminated on Wednesday, but it is currently unclear just how many. The company has not filed mass layoff filings in Washington State, California or New York where Amazon employs the largest portion of its staff.

A spokesperson for the company told the newswire: “We have been closely monitoring our organisational needs and prioritising what matters most to customers and the long-term health of our businesses. Some roles have been eliminated on the Amazon Music team. We will continue to invest in Amazon Music.”

These are the latest job cuts at Amazon, which beat analyst expectations with its reported third-quarter net income. The company has laid off more than 27,000 staff globally in the past year, with the most recent trimmings coming in the form of communications staff in its Studios, Video and Music divisions last month.

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