Google Infringed Sonos' Patent: US Regulators

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Tech giant Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) suffered a major setback in their Google smart speaker business after the USITC ruled that the company is in infringement of patents originally claimed by Sonos (SONO)
The ITC had already ruled in favor of Sonos, but the recent iteration of the ruling only confirmed the previous judgement. The company will suffer a import ban on its own products after 60 days if they fail to implement the required changes.

The lawsuit which Sonos opened back in 2020 put five technologies Google mostly used in its smart speakers in contention. Devices like Google Home, Pixel devices, and Chromecasts have the ability to connect and stay in sync with each other, one of the main features Sonos claimed ownership of. However, Google executives do not think that the minor alterations that they will have to implement will change the end user experience. Two other patents involve the setting up a playback device in the same WiFi area.

"While we disagree with today's decision, we appreciate that the International Trade Commission has approved our modified designs," a Google representative spokesperson told Protocol. "We will seek further review and continue to defend ourselves against Sonos' frivolous claims about our partnership and intellectual property."

One of the major changes implemented just back in November is that the volume of Google's interconnected devices will have to be changed manually and individually. The Nest team said in a statement on Thursday that the users will have to download separate application to set up some of the devices in their home network.

Sonos legal counselor Eddie Lazarus said in a statement, "There is a possibility that Google will be able to degrade or eliminate product features in a way that circumvents the importation ban that the ITC has imposed. But while Google may sacrifice consumer experience in an attempt to circumvent this importation ban, its products will still infringe many dozens of Sonos patents, its wrongdoing will persist, and the damages owed Sonos will continue to accrue. Alternatively, Google can —as other companies have already done — pay a fair royalty for the technologies it has misappropriated."

Mishaal Rehman, the senior tech editor of Esper has recently tweeted, "Surprise! Cast volume controls have been re-enabled with the January 2022 update for Pixel. Google either settled its legal matter or this new method enables cast volume controls in a way that doesn't violate the patent."

Google and Sonos have been entangled in legal battles on multiple fronts as Google filed a lawsuit to counter this lawsuit later in June 2020 and Sonos hit back with another lawsuit listing all the copyrights Google has been infringing, tarnishing the monopolous identity of the company.

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