Sonos case against Google gets closer scrutiny by ITC

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The U.S. trade agency is closely following Sonos Inc.’s statements. that Alphabet Inc. Google infringes patents on home audio systems and is considering bringing some Google smart home devices, phones and laptops to the US market.

The International Trade Commission said it would consider part of the judge’s findings that Google had infringed five Sonos patents and cleared the product redesign of any infringement. Both companies approached the agency with a request to consider those aspects of the judge’s findings that contradicted them.

Specifically, the commission said it will consider whether the products accused of infringing the two patents are “products that infringe upon importation.” The Commission said it will not address the remaining issues in the judge’s decision and will consider a possible remedy that could mean a ban on imports. The final decision is scheduled to be made on January 6.

Sonos said the notice means the ALJ’s decision of the violation will remain in effect.

“We’re pleased the panel will confirm the ALJ’s ruling that all five Sonos patents are valid and that Google is infringing on all five of those patents,” the company said. “We also look forward to further interaction with the panel on the details of the remedy to which we are entitled and the continuation of our claim for damages in the District Court.”

Google denies using Sonos technology.

“We are competing for the quality of our products and the merit of our ideas,” said Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman. “We disagreed with the preliminary decision and will continue to present our case during the review process.”

Sonos claims Google learned about Sonos technology under the guise of a working partnership to integrate Google Play Music into Sonos products, but instead used the proprietary ideas in its Home and Chromecast systems, and Pixel phones and laptops. Google has filed lawsuits in district court, accusing Sonos of trying to get a loan for a Google-owned job.

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

Sonos is requiring it to stop importing at the border, as well as a regulation prohibiting the sale of any Google products already imported into the United States. The import ban could be lifted by President Joe Biden for public policy reasons, although presidents have rarely exercised this power.

Selling Google gadgets is a small part of his business; the company does not disclose device revenue. But Google continued to invest in phones and home speakers as a strategy to protect its search and media services from outside threats. Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. Google’s victory over the redesign will weaken the impact of any import ban imposed by the Commission.

Sonos said Google is trying to avoid a potential import ban by pointing out “incomplete” products that shouldn’t have been considered by a judge.

Google acted to ensure that the import ban never affected it, “flooding the case with partial, hypothetical design changes, no quality control, and never infiltrating any product through any standard product design channels,” Sonos told the commission.

Sonos is backed by the Innovation Alliance, a group of patent holders including Qualcomm Inc. and AbbVie Inc., which said it was cheaper for large technology companies to use other companies’ inventions and worry about litigation later, a strategy known as “effective infringement.” “

“Ultimately, if small companies cannot count on ITC to exclude products that are unfairly competing in the marketplace, they may well be pushed out of the market by the ability of larger companies to leverage patented innovations from others without serious consequences,” wrote Centripetal Networks Inc., a cybersecurity company that won a $ 1.9 billion district court ruling against Cisco Systems Inc., which is currently under review.

Google said it “spent significant development resources” on the products that worked around Sonos’ patents, and that there was “overwhelming evidence” in its favor, even though “Sonos threw the kitchen sink into Google’s redesign throughout the investigation.”

Two of the five patents involve techniques for synchronizing sound reproduction and thus eliminating minor differences that the ear can interpret as echoes. Others include ways to combine speakers to create stereo sounds, adjust the volume of one or a group of speakers with a single controller, and a way to easily connect the system to your home Wi-Fi network.

The case concerns certain audio players and controllers, 337-1191, US International Trade Commission (Washington).



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