New Delhi — Alphabet Inc.’s Google has been ordered by a federal jury in San Francisco, US to compensate Sonos Inc., a smart-speaker manufacturer, with a hefty $32.5 million in damages. The ruling comes as a consequence of Google’s infringement on one of Sonos Inc.’s patents relating to wireless audio devices.
The ongoing case between former collaborators, who worked together on integrating Google’s streaming music service into Sonos products, involves multiple lawsuits across various countries. The litigious battleground spans the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
Sonos initiated legal action against Google in Los Angeles and the US International Trade Commission (ITC) in 2020, alleging patent infringement. Sonos accuses the tech giant of duplicating its technology during their collaborative efforts, encompassing devices such as Google Home and Chromecast Audio.
Last year Sonos secured a partial import prohibition on select Google devices through the US ITC. However, Google has filed an appeal against this ruling.
In response, Google launched its own patent infringement lawsuits in California and before the US ITC, alleging that Sonos incorporated its proprietary technology into their (Sonos’) smart speakers. The latter has denounced these legal actions by Google as an “intimidation tactic” aimed at weakening a smaller competitor.
In a statement to The Verge, Eddie Lazarus, Sonos’ Chief Legal Officer and CFO said “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.”
“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.”
Google spokesperson Peter Schottenfels responding to the verdict stated to The Verge
Despite the favourable outcome, Sonos did not achieve complete victory in the case, as the jury determined that Google’s Home app did not infringe on a separate patent filed by Sonos. Furthermore, the judge instructed jurors to disregard a $90 million damages estimate from a Sonos expert witness, deeming some of the evidence inadmissible, as reported by Law360.