Court finding that Google infringed on Sonos technology puts phone, laptop, speaker imports at risk – The Australian Financial Review

Sonos won a ruling that will limit the imports of some phones, laptops and speakers made overseas by Google because they infringe patents for home audio technology.
The US International Trade Commission issued the ban on Thursday after affirming a judge’s findings that the devices used Sonos’ patented inventions without permission.
The US government can veto the exclusion order on public-policy grounds, though that rarely happens. Otherwise, the ban takes effect in 60 days.
Google also must stop selling products that have been imported, the commission said. While the order does not name the products that will be banned, the case involved a broad range of items with sound systems, such as the Nest Hub, Nest WiFi point, Pixel smartphones and Pixelbook laptops.
Google’s Nest Hub. 
Devices without that audio system, such as the Nest thermostats, that do not include the infringing products will not be affected, and the commission said redesigned products found not to infringe the patents would not be blocked.
It is the first time Google has faced an import ban at the trade agency. Last year it fended off a case brought by EcoFactor involving smart thermostats.
Sonos, which called the ruling an “across the board win”, said the only way Google can avoid the ban is to “degrade or eliminate product features”.
“While Google may sacrifice consumer experience in an attempt to circumvent this importation ban, its products will still infringe many dozens of Sonos patents, its wrongdoing will persist, and the damages owed Sonos will continue to accrue,” the company said in a statement. “Alternatively, Google can – as other companies have already done – pay a fair royalty for the technologies it has misappropriated.”
Google said it was disappointed in the ruling. In addition to the presidential review period, it can appeal the decision to the US’s top patent court.
“While we disagree with today’s decision, we will ensure our shared customers have the best experience using our products and do not experience any disruption,” said Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman. “We will seek further review and continue to defend ourselves against Sonos’ frivolous claims about our partnership and intellectual property.”
The real-world impact had been hotly debated by both companies. The ITC judge had cleared changes Google made to its software to work around the patented inventions. Google has said that means none of its hardware will be halted at the US border.
In its complaint with the agency filed two years ago, Sonos alleged that Google learned of 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 in district court accusing Sonos of trying to take credit for work owned by Google.
Investors have watched the ITC case closely, looking for hints that Sonos will be able to use its patents to maintain its market share and generate more revenue from patent royalties. Since the litigation began, Sonos has said it was looking for an agreement in which Google would pay for using the technology.
Bloomberg
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