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Google wins Sonos patent case, avoids $32.5M fine

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Google has successfully convinced a California federal judge that it did not violate Sonos’ multi-room audio patents. US District Judge William Alsup has invalidated a previous verdict that imposed a $32.5 million fine on the tech giant for allegedly infringing on Sonos’ patents related to managing groups of speakers.

Judge Alsup clarified that Sonos’ patents for the lawsuit were seemingly derived from a 2006 provisional application. However, it was revealed that Sonos didn’t file the patent applications in question until 2019, and the technology wasn’t integrated into its own products until 2020. This was years after Google, in 2014, had presented a plan to Sonos for using multi-room audio technology while exploring a potential collaboration.

Although Sonos had connected its patents to a 2006 provisional application, they appeared to predate Google’s products. Nevertheless, Judge Alsup determined that the early application did not adequately disclose the actual invention. In 2019, Sonos modified the specification of its patent application to introduce new material. In his decision, Judge Alsup stated, “This was not a case of an inventor leading the industry to something new. This was a case of the industry leading with something new, and only then, an inventor coming out to claim that he had conceived the idea first, extracting fresh claims to apply to a competitor’s products from an outdated application.”

Sonos had filed a lawsuit against Google in federal court in early 2020, alleging that the tech giant violated five of its speaker patents. Patrick Spence, Sonos’ CEO, had previously accused Google of knowingly and blatantly appropriating Sonos technology and refusing to cooperate on a mutually beneficial solution. Earlier this year, a California federal jury had determined that Google infringed on one of Sonos’ patents and ordered the tech giant to pay a $32.5 million penalty. Notably, Judge Alsup presided over these proceedings as well. However, in his recent decision, he shed light on what transpired during the trial.

In response, a Sonos spokesperson conveyed to Reuters that the latest ruling was “incorrect in both the facts and the law.” Based on this, it is evident that Sonos intends to challenge the recent verdict by planning an appeal.

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