Sonos case against Google closely investigated by ITC

A US trade agency is taking a closer look at Sonos Inc.’s claims that Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home infringes on the audio system’s patent and is considering removing some Google smart home devices, phones and laptops from the US market. to be done or not.

The International Trade Commission said it would review part of a judge’s findings that Google infringed on five Sonos patents and that any infringing product redesigns. Both companies asked the agency to review aspects of the judge’s findings that went against them.

Specifically, the commission said it would review whether products alleged to infringe the two patents “are articles that are infringing at the time of import.” The commission said it would not review the remaining issues in the judge’s determination, and would consider a possible remedy, which could mean an import ban. The final verdict is to be issued on January 6.

Sonos said the notice means an administrative law judge’s violation will be detected.

“We are pleased that the commission will confirm ALJ’s decision that all five Sonos patents issued are valid and that Google infringes on all five of those patents,” the company said. “We also look forward to engaging further with the Commission on the details of the remedy we are entitled to, and pursuing our damages case in District Court.”

Google denied using Sonos technology.

“We compete on the quality of our products and the merits of our ideas,” said Google spokesman Jose Castaneda. “We disagreed with the initial decision and will continue to make our case in the review process.”

Sonos claims that Google learned of Sonos’ technology under the guise of a working partnership to integrate Google Play Music into Sonos’ products, but instead used patented ideas in its Home and Chromecast systems and Pixel phones and laptops. used. Google has filed its claim in district court accusing Sonos of trying to take credit for Google-owned work.

Investors are watching the ITC case closely, seeing it as a test of Santa Barbara, California-based Sonos’ ability to enforce its intellectual property, protect its market from competitors, and develop a new revenue stream in licensing. Huh. Sonos and Google have traded patent-infringement allegations in the US and Europe.

Sonos wants imports to be halted at the border, as well as an order to halt the sale of any Google products already brought into the U.S. Based on public policy the import ban could be reversed by President Joe Biden, although the presidents Rarely has that power been used.

Google’s gadget sales are a small fraction of its business; The company does not disclose income from equipment. But Google continues to invest in phones and home speakers as a strategy to bolster its search and media services against threats from Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. Google’s victory on the issue of redesign would blunt the impact of any import restrictions. Commission.

Sonos said Google is trying to avoid a potential import ban by pointing to “imperfect” products that should not have been considered by a judge.

Sonos told the commission, “Google worked to ensure that it never “floods the case with piecemeal, fanciful redesigns, dashed quality control, and never fails in any way in any product.” will not be included.”

Sonos is backed by the Innovation Alliance, a group of patent owners including Qualcomm Inc. and AbbVie Inc., which said large tech companies find it cheaper to use another company’s inventions and worry about subsequent litigation, which ” Known as “efficient violation”. ,

“Ultimately, if smaller companies cannot see the ITC to weed out articles that are unfairly competing in the market, they may end up using patented innovations without major consequences for larger companies.” ability to take itself out of the market.” Centripetal Networks Inc., a cyber security company. Wrote, which co-founded Cisco Systems Inc. Won a $1.9 billion district court decision against him, which is currently under appeal.

Google said it “spent considerable resources” designing products that worked around the Sonos patent, and there was “enormous evidence” in its favor, even though “Sonos threw the kitchen sink at Google’s redesign in this entire investigation.” Gave.”

Two of the five patents cover technology to synchronize audio playback and thereby eliminate minor differences that the ear might interpret as echoes. Others include ways to pair speakers to create stereo sound, adjust the volume for singles or groups of speakers with a single controller, and a way to easily connect systems to home Wi-Fi.

The matter is in the matter of certain audio players and controllers, 337-1191, US International Trade Commission (Washington).

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