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A judge has ruled that Google infringed on Sonos’ patents

A judge has ruled that Google infringed on Sonos’ patents


The ruling is a preliminary one

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Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Google has infringed upon Sonos’ patents, according to an initial ruling from a US International Trade Commission judge. Sonos has been locked in a legal battle with Google after it sued the search giant, claiming that it had infringed on five of its patents relating to smart speakers. In a statement to The Verge, Sonos says that the ruling “is only a first step in a lengthy battle” but calls it an “important milestone in the ongoing effort to defend Sonos’ technology against Google.”

The suit began in January of 2020, with Sonos alleging that Google stole technology it had access to as part of a partnership between the two companies. In the lawsuit, Sonos says that Google used that tech in its own products and undercut Sonos. As part of its suit, Sonos asked for a sales ban on tons of Google hardware, including Nest Hubs, Chromecasts, and Pixel phones. The suit has since set off a legal battle between the two companies, with Google filing a countersuit and Sonos starting another case, claiming that Google had infringed five more patents in addition to the original five.

This isn’t a final decision

The commission found that Google had infringed on all five of the patents the company had cited in the original suit. As The New York Times points out, this isn’t a final decision. The International Trade Commission will have to consider the case as well and issue its own ruling, which will happen on December 13th. The decision is also only for one case — there’s still the mess of other lawsuits the two companies are embroiled in.

The ruling comes as Sonos has reportedly been surveying customers on whether they’d want a feature called “Sonos Voice Control,” which would seemingly add some more smarts to the company’s speakers (though some Sonos products already support Amazon’s Alexa).

There’s also the backdrop of antitrust complaints against Google. In its statement, Sonos says that its effort against Google is meant to “ensure all companies, regardless of size, receive fair compensation for investing in the development of industry leading technology.” In other words, Sonos is painting itself as the little guy going up against the Goliath. Sonos’ CEO has even testified in front of Congress that big tech companies like Google harm competition in their quest to be everything to everyone.

Google spokesperson José Castañeda gave the following statement to The Verge:

We do not use Sonos’ technology, and we compete on the quality of our products and the merits of our ideas. We disagree with this preliminary ruling and will continue to make our case in the upcoming review process.