Federal judge throws out $32.5 million win for Sonos against Google

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A California judge has thrown out a $32.5 million verdict win for Sonos against Google after two of Sonos’ patents were deemed unenforceable and invalid. As a result, Google has started to re-introduce software features it had removed due to Sonos’ lawsuit.

In a decision dated October 6, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said that Sonos had wrongfully linked its patent applications for multi-room audio technology to a 2006 application in order to make them appear older and claim that its inventions came before Google’s products, as first reported by Reuters.

“Sonos filed the provisional application from which the patents in suit claim priority in 2006, but it did not file the applications for these patents and present the asserted claims for examination until 2019,” the decision reads. “By the time these patents issued in 2019 and 2020, the industry had already marched on and put the claimed invention into practice. In fact, in 2014, five years before Sonos filed the applications and presented the claims, accused infringer Google LLC shared with Sonos a plan for a product that would practice what would become the claimed invention.”

The decision states that the two companies were exploring a potential collaboration, but that it never materialized. Alsup goes on to note that Google began introducing its own products featured multi-room audio technology in 2015, and also that Sonos waited until 2019 to pursue claims on the invention.

“This was not a case of an inventor leading the industry to something new,” Alsup wrote. “This was a case of the industry leading with something new and, only then, an inventor coming out of the woodwork to say that he had come up with the idea first — wringing fresh claims to read on a competitor’s products from an ancient application.”

Sonos has called the ruling “wrong on both the facts and the law” and a “temporary setback.”

“Judge Alsup’s ruling invalidating the jury’s verdict is wrong on both the facts and law, and Sonos will appeal,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement to TechCrunch. “The same is true of earlier rulings narrowing our case. While an unfortunate result, it does not change the fact that Google is a serial infringer of our patent portfolio, as the International Trade Commission has already ruled with respect to five other patents. In the end, we expect this to be a temporary setback in our efforts to hold Google financially accountable for misappropriating Sonos’s patented inventions.”

As for Google, the tech giant has revealed that it will be bringing back software features it had removed due to Sonos’ lawsuit.

“We recently made a change to speaker groups for Nest speakers, displays, and Chromecast where certain devices can only belong to one speaker group at a time in the Google Home app,” the company wrote in a blog post. “A federal judge has found that two patents that Sonos accused our devices of infringing are invalid. In light of this legal decision we’re happy to share that we will be rolling back this change.”

The company says devices will be able to belong to multiple speaker groups and that users will no longer run into an error when trying to add a device to additional groups. Google is rolling out this update now and expects it to go live across its devices and the Home App on Android in the next two days. The change will also be coming soon to the Home App on iOS, Google says.

The legal dispute between the two companies began back in 2020, when Sonos sued Google and accused the tech giant of infringing on its speaker patents. Earlier this year, a California federal jury ruled that Google had infringed on a patent Sonos holds and ordered the tech giant to pay a $32.5 million fine.

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