Earlier this year, the International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Google infringed on 5 patents belonging to speaker company Sonos. The ITC ordered Google to cease and desist. A limited exclusion order has been issued, giving Google 60 days to modify the offending devices or risk having them blocked from entering the United States. These devices included Nest speakers, Chromecast devices, and Pixel smartphones.
Google has made some changes to its products, including connected speakers and its Pixel smartphones, through software updates. The patents allegedly infringed by Google relate to how consumers can more easily set up a speaker device that controls home audio systems, pairing multiple speakers, independent volume control of different speakers speakers and stereo speaker pairing.
When the Pixel 6 line of smartphones first came out, pressing the volume button brought up a second volume slider to the left of the main volume slider, which featured a musical note. At the time of the ITC’s decision, there was speculation that the second slider had been disabled by Google due to its alleged violation of Sonos patents. It’s important to point out that the second slider was removed from Pixel 6 smartphones in the Android 13 beta.
The Verge reports that Google defends itself against Sonos with two lawsuits and a claim of its own that Sonos infringes no less than 7 Google patents related to smart speakers and voice control technologies. Google spokesperson José Castañeda explained why Google took this action. He said the lawsuits were filed so the company could “defend our technology and challenge Sonos’ gross and continuing infringement of our patents“.
The Google spokesperson added that Sonos had “launched an aggressive and deceptive campaign against our products, at the expense of our mutual customers“. One of the complaints filed by Google relates to keyword detection and wireless charging. The first is the technology used to activate digital assistants from a sleep state and put them into an active state ready to receive user requests. Keywords would include “Ok, Google” and “Hey, Siri.”
Sonos sees it as revenge
Both lawsuits have been filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, and Google’s spokesperson told The Verge that the company will file a similar lawsuit with the ITC and seek to ban imports of the offending Sonos products into the United States.
Of course, Sonos considers that Google is trying to get revenge on the company. Eddie Lazarus, chief legal officer of Sonos, called the lawsuits “intimidation tacticand said they were meant for “retaliate against Sonos for speaking out against Google’s monopolistic practices“. He added that the lawsuit allows Google to avoid paying royalties to Sonos and “grind a smaller competitor. It won’t succeed“.