Google faces Pixel and Smart Home device ban over Sonos patent infringement
A U.S. trade agency is taking a closer look at claims by Sonos Inc. that Alphabet Inc.’s Google is infringing home audio system patents and is considering shutting down certain Google smart devices, phones and laptops from the U.S. market.
Both companies have asked the agency to review aspects of the judge’s findings that worked against them.
Concretely, the commission noted it would examine whether the products accused of infringing two of the patents are “articles which infringe at the time of importation”.
The commission said it would not consider the remaining issues in the judge’s ruling and would consider a possible appeal, which could mean an import ban. A final decision is expected to be made on January 6.
Sonos said the notice means the administrative judge’s finding of violation will stand.
“We are delighted that the panel confirms the ALJ’s ruling that the five Sonos patents in issue are valid and that Google is infringing these five patents,” the company said.
âWe also look forward to further engaging with the commission on the details of the remedy to which we are entitled and to pursue our case for damages in the district court. “
Google has denied using Sonos technology.
“We compete on the quality of our products and the merits of our ideas,” said JosÃ© CastaÃ±eda, spokesperson for Google. “We did not agree with the preliminary ruling and will continue to assert our point of view in the review process.”
Sonos claims Google discovered Sonos’ technology under the guise of a working partnership to integrate Google Play Music into Sonos products, but instead used the patented ideas in its Home and Chromecast systems and Pixel phones and laptops. .
Google has filed its own claims with the district court accusing Sonos of attempting to take credit for work owned by Google.
Investors have been following the ITC case closely, seeing it as a test of the ability of Santa Barbara, California-based Sonos to enforce its intellectual property, protect its market from competitors, and develop a new source of licensing revenues.
Sonos and Google have exchanged claims of patent infringement in the United States and Europe.
Sonos wants to stop imports at the border, as well as an order banning the sale of any Google product already imported into the United States. An import ban could be overturned by President Joe Biden for public policy reasons, although presidents have rarely used this power.
Google’s gadget sales are only a small fraction of its business; the company does not disclose revenue from the devices.
But Google continued to invest in phones and home speakers as a strategy to strengthen its research and media services against threats from Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.
A Google victory on the overhaul issue would lessen the impact of any import ban imposed by the commission.
Sonos said Google was trying to evade a possible import ban by pointing to “incomplete” products that should not have been taken into account by the judge.
Google acted to ensure that it would never be affected by an import ban by “flooding the cabinet with sketchy and hypothetical redesigns, rushed without quality control and never incorporated into any product through standard product design channels. “Sonos told the panel.
Sonos has the backing of the Innovation Alliance, a group of patent owners including Qualcomm Inc. and AbbVie Inc., which has said that big tech companies are finding it cheaper to use another company’s inventions and worry about litigation later, a strategy known as “effective counterfeiting”. “
âUltimately, if small businesses cannot turn to ITC to exclude items that are unfairly competing in the market, they could very well find themselves excluded from the market due to the ability of large companies to use other patented innovations without major consequence, “wrote Centripetal Networks Inc., a cybersecurity company that won a $ 1.9 billion district court judgment against Cisco Systems Inc. which is currently under appeal.
Google said it “had spent considerable resources designing” products that worked around the Sonos patents, and that there was “overwhelming evidence” in its favor even though “Sonos threw in the kitchen sink on Google’s redesigns throughout this investigation “.
Two of the five patents involve techniques to synchronize audio playback and thereby eliminate minor differences that the ear can interpret as echoes.
The others involve ways of pairing speakers to create stereo sounds, adjusting the volumes of single or groups of speakers with a single controller, and a way to easily connect the system to Wi-Fi. a house.
The case is In the Matter of Certain Audio Players and Controllers, 337-1191, US International Trade Commission (Washington).