Voice software technology developer VB Assets LLC is suing Amazon.com Inc., saying the e-commerce giant infringed on patents when developing software for the Alexa digital assistant.
VB Assets LLC, which owns the rights to some of the technology developed by voice software pioneer VoiceBox Technologies, said in a lawsuit filed in Delaware federal court on Monday that Amazon infringed on six of its patents covering conversational voice interfaces, commerce and advertisements.
VoiceBox provided speech services to companies including Toyota and Samsung.
In 2011, VoiceBox, contacted Amaxon to propose license of its natural language understanding software, the complaint says. VoiceBox staff held two meetings with Amazon corporate development employees and technologists, but didn’t hear from Amazon afterward, according to the complaint.
Three years later, Amazon launched Alexa and the cylindrical Echo smart speaker the software powers. Alexa and the Echo were “strikingly similar to the patented technology that VoiceBox Technologies showed Amazon in 2011,” the complaint says.
Amazon subsequently hired VoiceBox’s chief scientist and held a recruiting event to encourage other employees to make the jump, the complaint says.
Mike Kennewick, then VoiceBox’s chief executive officer, sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2017 expressing concerns about Amazon’s recruiting and suggested that Amazon buy the firm. In subsequent meetings with Amazon that winter, VoiceBox handed over a summary of its patent portfolio, the complaint says.
Amazon did not provide any comment.