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Jawbone Ghost Rises to Sue Google, Apple Over Ear Buds, Phones

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(Bloomberg) -- Patents originally owned by the bankrupt Silicon Valley darling Jawbone Inc. are at the center of new lawsuits seeking royalties from Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple Inc. over noise canceling technology in their ear buds, smartphones and smart home devices.

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Jawbone Innovations LLC, the current owner of the patents, filed the suits Tuesday in federal court in Waco, Texas, a district that’s the most popular in the nation for its patent-friendly judge and juries.

Jawbone Inc. was considered a pioneer in wearable technology but it lost the market to Fitbit Inc. A bare-knuckle legal battle between the two left Jawbone mortally wounded before the companies settled their fight in 2017. Jawbone ended up liquidating its assets, while Fitbit was bought by Google for $2.1 billion earlier this year.

Google, Apple and other companies each had a chance to buy the assets of the bankrupt company and passed, according to the complaints. It’s unclear from the suits and Patent and Trademark Office filings who’s behind the company that now owns the patents. Jawbone Innovations is headquartered in a small office building in Waco with no phone number and the lawyers on the case couldn’t immediately be reached.

“We dispute the claims, and will defend ourselves vigorously,” José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson, said in response to the suits.

Officials with Apple had no immediate comment.

The eight patents in the case relate to ways to limit background noise in devices, technology that was developed in Jawbone’s early years, when it was contracted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to research noise suppression techniques for the U.S. military, according to the complaints.

Samsung Electronics Co., another company said to have passed on buying Jawbone’s assets, was sued by Jawbone Innovations in May over two of the noise-canceling patents. That case is pending in federal court in Marshall, Texas, which also is known as a patent-friendly venue.

The new cases are Jawbone Innovations LLC v Google LLC, 21-985, and Jawbone Innovations LLC v. Apple Inc., 21-984, both U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas (Waco).

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