The US International Trade Commission has agreed with Sonos’ claims that Google infringed upon its speaker and cast patents. It issued its preliminary ruling back in August, and it finalizes its decision, which bars Google from importing products that violate Sonos’ intellectual properties. Since Google manufactures its products in China, that means when the import ban goes into effect in 60 days, it won’t be able to ship them to the US.
Sonos sued Google in 2020 over five patents detailing a technology that allows wireless speakers to sync with each other. As the new York Times Of note, affected products include Google’s Home smart speakers, Pixel phones and computers as well as Chromecast devices. While Google is facing an import ban, a spokesperson said the tech giant does not expect the decision to impede its ability to import and sell devices.
“While we disagree with today’s decision, we appreciate that the International Trade Commission has approved our revised designs,” the spokesperson explained. Etiquette, “We will seek further review and continue to defend ourselves against Sonos’ frivolous claims about our partnership and intellectual property.” The commission did not challenge those alternative designs in its final decision, meaning Google could implement them.
In fact, the Nest team recently announced some changes to speaker groups it says are “due to a recent legal ruling.” The most notable change is that, going forward, users will no longer be able to adjust the volume of all the speakers in a group simultaneously. They instead have to adjust each speaker individually.
In a statement, Sonos Chief Legal Officer Eddie Lazarus acknowledged that there is a possibility that “Google will be able to degrade or eliminate product features in a way that bypasses the import restrictions imposed by ITC.” However, he added that the tech giant’s products would still “infringe upon several dozens of Sonos patents” — that is, unless Google pays Sonos royalties for its technologies.
His full statement reads:
“We appreciate that ITC has conclusively validated the five Sonos patents in this case and has explicitly ruled that Google infringes all five. This is a victory for the entire board that deals with the patent matters. Extremely rare and underscore the strength of Sonos’ extensive patent portfolio, and the hollowness of Google’s refusal to copy. These Sonos patents cover the groundbreaking invention of Sonos’ hugely popular home audio features, including controlling home audio systems To set up, synchronization of multiple speakers, independent volume control of different speakers, and stereo pairing of speakers.
There is a possibility that Google will be able to degrade or eliminate product features in a way that bypasses the import restriction imposed by ITC. But while Google may sacrifice the consumer experience in an effort to circumvent this import restriction, its products will still infringe dozens of Sonos patents, continue to accrue wrongdoing, and continue to accrue damages caused to Sonos. Alternatively, Google – as other companies have already done – could pay reasonable royalties for technologies it abuses.”
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