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In lawsuit, State Farm accuses Amazon of patent infringement over smart speaker tool for seniors

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Staff
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WGLT file
State Farm, based in Bloomington, says this is the first time it’s filed a patent infringement lawsuit.

Bloomington-Normal’s second-largest employer, Rivian, considers Amazon one of its most important investors and customers. Bloomington-Normal’s No. 1 largest employer, State Farm, says Amazon is a thief.

State Farm has filed a federal lawsuit alleging Amazon of willfully infringing on its patent for a smart speaker tool aimed at older adults. State Farm, based in Bloomington, says this is the first time it’s filed a patent infringement lawsuit.

“Amazon’s blatant, willful infringement creates an unfair playing field and threatens the ability to innovate,” State Farm said in its lawsuit, filed Nov. 3 in Delaware. “Amazon’s infringement is so contrary to State Farm’s core values of being 'a good neighbor' — both in terms of the irreparable harm it has caused State Farm, and to innovation as a whole — that State Farm had no choice but to bring this action.”

An Amazon spokesperson said Friday they don’t comment on ongoing litigation.

The lawsuit centers around State Farm’s Sundial tool, which WGLT reported on when it launched in June 2020. It allowed an aging adult (called the “Center”) to use their voice-activated, Alexa-enabled device to check in with their “Care Circle,” such as their children. They could access shared calendars, shopping lists, even photos. The goal, of course, was to age at home for as long as you can.

At the time, it was one of the most high-profile exports from State Farm’s innovation arm, called Labs @ State Farm. State Farm, along with its technical subsidiary BlueOwl, has been awarded more than 1,500 U.S. patents.

State Farm said it worked closely with Amazon to develop Sundial. “Amazon held regular meetings with State Farm, received materials concerning State Farm’s innovative, patent-pending technologies, and Amazon’s engineers, executives, and other personnel learned about the structure, operation, functions of, and applications for those patented technologies,” the lawsuit claimed.

“But Amazon did not stop at merely watching,” the lawsuit claimed. “Instead, its egregious actions, under the guise of an alleged partnership, reflect blatant, willful infringement.”

Amazon launched its competing Alexa Care Hub product in November 2020. Later, it released another competing product, Alexa Together, which State Farm claimes was “in blatant disregard of State Farm intellectual property rights.”

“Sadly, this conduct is not new for Amazon,” State Farm said in the lawsuit. “This is just the latest example of a pattern of anticompetitive behavior, including intellectual property infringement and other flagrant violations of the partnership agreements into which it has entered.”

State Farm’s lawsuit seeks to stop Amazon’s alleged improper use of its patented technologies.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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