Sonos sued Google in January 2020, alleging that the latter had stolen its multiroom speaker technology and infringed on 100 patents. Sonos then sued Google in September, alleging that Google’s whole line of Chromecast and Nest products infringed on five of Sonos’ wireless audio patents. Sonos was given a preliminary victory by a judge. The preliminary findings of the United States International Trade Commission have now been formalized, making things even worse for Google. As a result, Google is prohibited from importing any devices that infringe on Sonos’ patents, which include Google Pixel phones and computers, Chromecasts, and Google Home/Nest speakers, according to Sonos.
Google’s products are frequently manufactured and imported from outside of the United States, which is why this is such a major concern for the company. Google was also handed a cease and desist order in the judgement (via The New York Times) to stop infringing on Sonos’ patents. It’s been speculated that Google removed Cast volume controls in Android 12 as a result of the lawsuit, however it was recently restored in the January 2022 security patch.
Sonos previously stated that it attempted to negotiate a license agreement with Google for patents that the firm was using, but that neither party was able to reach an agreement. Sonos said it disclosed information of its unique technology with Google in 2013, when the two companies were not competitors, though Google later entered the audio industry with gadgets like the Google Home. Sonos has two other claims against Google ongoing, so this is unlikely to be the final chapter in this saga.
The decision has now been forwarded to US President Joe Biden, who has 60 days to reject it before it takes effect. The following patents are alleged to be infringed:
- 9,195,258: System and method for synchronizing operations among a multiplicity of digital data processing devices that are separately clocked
- Playback device: 10,209,953
- 8,588,949 In a multi-zone system, a method and equipment for regulating volume levels are described.
- 9,219,959 In a media system, multi-channel pairing
- Connection to a playback device: 10,439,896
Bloomberg received the following statement from Sonos:
“While Google may degrade consumer enjoyment in order to avoid the importation restriction, its devices will continue to infringe on hundreds of Sonos patents, its wrongdoing will continue, and the damages owing to Sonos will continue to mount.” Alternatively, Google may pay a fair fee for the inventions it has plundered, as other firms have done in the past.”
Bloomberg received the following statement from Google:
“While we disagree with today’s judgement, we welcome the International Trade Commission’s approval of our amended designs, and we do not expect our ability to import or sell our products to be affected.” We will seek additional study and defend ourselves against Sonos’s baseless assertions concerning our partnership and intellectual property.”