ITC Hands Sonos a Victory in Patent Case Against Google

The United States International Trade Commission has weighed in on the Sonos patent infringement case against Google. And it’s bad news for Google: The Commission has found that all five patents involved in the case are valid and that Google infringes on all of them.

“Today the [ITC’s chief administrative law judge] has found all five of Sonos’ asserted patents to be valid and that Google infringes on all five patents,” a statement from Sonos Chief Legal Officer Eddie Lazarus notes. “We are pleased the ITC has confirmed Google’s blatant infringement of Sonos’ patented inventions. This decision re-affirms the strength and breadth of our portfolio, marking a promising milestone in our long-term pursuit to defend our innovation against misappropriation by Big Tech monopolies.”

Sonos first sued Google for patent infringement in January 2020, alleging that the online giant infringement on multiple Sonos patents related to smart speakers and related audio technology. The firm then sued Google again, in September 2020, alleging that Google was infringing on another five patents related to streaming music from cloud servers, playing back music from multiple devices, and dynamically adjusting sound quality based on the environment in which those devices are placed.

Sonos was originally seeking to ban the sale of Google’s infringing devices—including its Nest/Home smart speakers and Chromecast devices—and while the ITC ruling is only a single step in that direction, it’s still an important step.

“Chief Administrative Law Judge Charles E. Bullock [has] issued an initial determination [and] it is held that a violation of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, has been found in the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, or the sale within the United States after importation of certain audio players and controllers, components thereof, and products containing same with respect to all the Asserted Patents,” the ITC decision notes.

“While this is only a first step in a lengthy battle, the decision serves as an important milestone in the ongoing effort to defend Sonos’ technology against Google, in order to ensure all companies, regardless of size, receive fair compensation for investing in the development of industry-leading technology,” a Sonos representative told me.

The full Commission will issue a final ruling in the case in December.

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Conversation 13 comments

  • ringofvoid

    13 August, 2021 - 8:19 pm

    <p>I’m sorry. I don’t see how "Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if all my devices could stream the same music at the same time?" involves 105 patents. Given that Spotify, Apple music etc. exist it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that people would want to steam their services to more than one device at the same time.</p>

    • anoldamigauser

      Premium Member
      13 August, 2021 - 9:01 pm

      <p>Because business ethics is an oxymoron.</p><p>Don’t be evil.</p>

    • Alex Taylor

      14 August, 2021 - 3:33 am

      <p>And I’m pretty sure that Slim Devices’ Squeezebox system substantially preceded Sonos with those sorts of features (well before it was acquired by Logitech).</p><p><br></p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      14 August, 2021 - 12:40 pm

      <p>If you created intellectual property that was stolen by others, you would understand. </p>

      • lezmaka

        Premium Member
        16 August, 2021 - 4:16 pm

        <p>How are <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">vague concepts like </span>"setting up a playback device on a wireless local area network, adjusting group volume of playback devices, and synchronizing playback of audio within groups of playback devices" patentable inventions? If the implementation details in the patents described how it was actually done, then sure. But the "intellectual property" in the patents is general "do it with a computer"-level stuff.</p>

  • crunchyfrog

    14 August, 2021 - 8:45 am

    <p>This is why big companies buy up smaller ones as often as they can.</p>

  • ghostrider

    14 August, 2021 - 9:05 am

    <p>This isn’t about who’s right or wrong (patents are often abused and exist mainly to instigate litigation if ‘broken’). This isn’t about the benefits this brings the end user who’ve invested their money in the far cheaper but equally good Google streaming network this is now about how much money Sonos can now screw Google for (but Google will probably appeal – dragging it out for a lot longer), with the life-sucking lawyers who will be looking at nice bonus’s. Sad times.</p>

    • kingpcgeek

      Premium Member
      14 August, 2021 - 1:18 pm

      <p>I have had two Sonos Play 1’s on my patio for 6 years. They have gotten drenched from wind-blown rain countless times, and from my hose when I don’t move them before cleaning windows. They have the afternoon Phoenix sun beat down on them every day. Yet they still sound flawless, when we have people over they are amazed how those two little speakers in stereo mode sound. Sorry, there is no Google speaker that is equally good and would put up with the abuse my speakers have endured</p>

  • veermaharaj

    15 August, 2021 - 12:33 am

    <p>Hey look, now google will need to pay someone else money for shit they stole. It’s about time. They stole the mobile phone market by "open sourcing" it with their cheque book. But making it useless without their proprietary app store and associated services and APIs.</p><p><br></p><p>I hope more comes of this. A much as I despise sonos for depricating their older speakers without even offering users a way to put in a more modern control system.</p><p><br></p><p>Last i checked, sonos was doing the multi room / whole home audio in 2002 before streaming audio was a real thing and only 4 years after google was founded in 98. Back then you ran the sonos software on your pc and used that to stream your local music to said speakers. Think about that, in 2004 google was still figuring out gmail. Sonos had its first speaker in 2002. When you start an industry, you tend to create a few patents along the way.</p>

    • ringofvoid

      15 August, 2021 - 2:14 pm

      <p>As someone else posted, Slim Devices Squeezebox was doing the multi-room streaming audio in 2000, two years before Sonos was founded. Sonos has definitely been more successful &amp; I’m not knocking the quality of thier products. Taking out 105 patents on a me-too version of multi-room streaming audio has the look of a patent troll move</p>

      • ejuly

        Premium Member
        15 August, 2021 - 11:57 pm

        <p>Sonos and Logitech have a number of cross patent agreements – maybe these are involved.</p>

      • lvthunder

        Premium Member
        16 August, 2021 - 1:46 pm

        <p>You are only a patent troll when you have patents, but no products that use those patents.</p>

  • ebraiter

    16 August, 2021 - 7:15 pm

    <p>Unsure if still true but IBM owns the most patents in the world. Apple is up there was well.</p>


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