Google must go to trial in Sonos patent infringement case, says judge

Alphabet-owned Google is set to go to trial on May 8 over the patent infringement case brought against it by speaker maker Sonos.

In 2020, Santa Barbara-based Sonos sued Google for patent infringement, accusing it of infringing five Sonos patents related to speaker features.

“Almost a decade after Sonos created the smart-speaker market, Google entered the space. Initially, Google sought to work with Sonos and, through those efforts, gained access to Sonos’s engineers, products, and technology,” Sonos said in its September 2020 lawsuit.

The speaker manufacturer accused Google of developing and selling products that copied Sonos’s technology.

The pair worked with Google in late 2011 to integrate the Google Play Music service into the Sonos ecosystem. This led to the launch of Google Play Music on the Sonos platform in 2014.

However, in 2015, Google started “willfully infringing Sonos’s patents,” leading to the launch of Chromecast Audio, Sonos said in its lawsuit.

In 2019, Sonos added Google Assistant support to its app. At the time, Sonos CEO Patrick Spence called the integration “a major milestone for the industry,” adding that the company is committed to having multiple voice assistants on its app “as soon as possible”.

But in its lawsuit filed in 2020, Sonos claimed that Google’s misappropriation of its patented technology proliferated in 2015 when the tech giant expanded its wireless multi-room audio system to more than a dozen infringing products including the  Google Home Mini, Google Home, Google Home Max, and Pixel phones, tablets, and laptops.

Sonos is seeking financial damages and a ban on sales of Google’s speakers, smartphones and laptops in the US. By 2021, the Royal Bank of Canada estimated that Google sold over 100 million Google Home devices in the US alone, generating more than $8 billion in revenue.

In response to the claims, Google in a separate court filing in September 2020 said Sonos’s litigation campaign has harmed the reputations of its products.

Google claimed that Sonos asked for its assistance in 2013 to integrate with Google’s Play Music service. 

“Google gave Sonos that assistance, and provided significant engineering resources, technical support, and other resources to integrate Sonos’ products with Google’s Play Music service in 2014,” the tech company said.

Google added that Sonos has made “false claims” about its shared work and Google’s technology in lawsuits that it filed against Google.

US District Judge William Alsup invalidated one of the patents that Sonos accused Google of infringing. Alsup ruled that Google did not infringe on one of the patents. 

However, he rejected Google’s request to cancel the other two patents before the trial on May 8. 

Reuters recently reported that Sonos won a limited import ban on some Google devices from the US International Trade Commission (ITC) last year, while Google sued Sonos for patent infringement at the ITC and in California.

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