Google to pay Sonos $32.5m for infringing smart speaker patent

Sonos has emerged victorious in a patent infringement lawsuit against Google, after a jury in San Francisco ordered the tech giant to pay $32.5 million to the speaker manufacturer.

The decision, handed down Friday (May 26), caps off a lengthy legal battle between the two companies after Santa Barbara-based Sonos sued Google in 2020 for patent infringement, accusing it of infringing five Sonos patents related to speaker features.

Following a trial, the jury found that Google’s smart speakers and media players infringed on one of Sonos’ patented technologies related to multiroom audio.

The legal dispute began in 2020 when Sonos accused Google of copying its technology after the companies had previously partnered in 2013. 

Sonos at the time said: “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.”

The two companies worked together in late 2011 to integrate the Google Play Music service into the Sonos ecosystem, leading to the launch of Google Play Music on the Sonos platform in 2014.

But in 2015, Google started “willfully infringing Sonos’s patents,” resulting in the launch of Chromecast Audio, Sonos said in its September 2020 lawsuit.

Sonos in 2019 added Google Assistant support to its app.

Sonos had previously won its case at the US International Trade Commission, resulting in a limited import ban on certain Google devices and the removal of some features from Google’s smart speaker and smart display lineup.

In response to the decision, Sonos’ Chief Legal Officer and Chief Financial Officer Eddie Lazarus told The Verge: “We are deeply grateful for the jury’s time and diligence in upholding the validity of our patents and recognizing the value of Sonos’s invention of zone scenes.”

“This verdict re-affirms that Google is a serial infringer of our patent portfolio, as the International Trade Commission has already ruled with respect to five other Sonos patents.”

“In all, we believe Google infringes more than 200 Sonos patents and today’s damages award, based on one important piece of our portfolio, demonstrates the exceptional value of our intellectual property. Our goal remains for Google to pay us a fair royalty for the Sonos inventions it has appropriated,” Lazarus continued.

Meanwhile, Google spokesperson Peter Schottenfels told The Verge: “This is a narrow dispute about some very specific features that are not commonly used.”

“Of the six patents Sonos originally asserted, only one was found to be infringed, and the rest were dismissed as invalid or not infringed. We have always developed technology independently and competed on the merit of our ideas. We are considering our next steps.”

The jury, however, decided that Google’s Home app did not infringe on a separate patent filed by Sonos, The Verge reported, citing Law360.

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