Google hit with $32.5 million fine for infringing on Sonos patent

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Google has been hit with a $32.5 million fine for infringing on a Sonos smart speaker patent. Judge William Alsup of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ruled on Friday that Google infringed on a patent related to multiroom speaker technology. This Sonos tech enables a group of speakers to play audio at the same time.

Google ordered to pay Sonos $32.5 million for patent infringement

This legal battle started in January 2020 when Sonos sued Google alleging that the latter illegally copied its multiroom speaker technology. The audio company said Google got access to the tech after they partnered in 2013. But it continued to use the tech on its products without proper licensing even after their partnership ended. Several back-and-forth lawsuits followed with each company accusing the other of patent violation.


The US International Trade Commission (ITC) preliminarily ruled the case in favor of Sonos in August 2021. Google challenged that decision, but only for the Commission to once again rule against it in January 2022. This resulted in an import ban on Google products that infringed on Sonos patents. Google also had to make some changes to its smart speakers. It removed the ability to adjust the volume of multiple speakers in a group at once and a feature that enabled users to control a Speaker Group’s volume using their phone’s volume button.

Google wasn’t ready to accept this embarrassing defeat against Sonos, though. Last August, it filed a pair of lawsuits alleging that Sonos infringed on seven patents related to smart speakers. The patents covered technologies such as hotword detection, wireless charging, and “how a group of speakers determines which one should respond to voice input”. The company sought an import ban on Sonos products in question. While those cases remain pending, the court has found Google guilty of infringing a Sonos patent.

In his ruling, Judge William Alsup ordered Google to pay $2.30 in royalty to Sonos for each unit of the products that infringed on the patent in question (multiroom speaker technology). Google reportedly sold 14,133,558 units of those products, incurring a total fine of over $32.5 million. Note that Sonos had alleged Google of five more patent infringements. Four of those were dismissed earlier, while the jury found in favor of Google for the fifth on Friday. It concerned technologies that enabled the controlling of smart speakers via a smartphone.


Sonos calls Google a serial offender, Google says it competed on the merit

“We are deeply grateful for the jury’s time and diligence in upholding the validity of our patents and recognizing the value of Sonos’s invention of zone scenes,” Sonos said in a statement to The Verge. “This verdict re-affirms that Google is a serial infringer of our patent portfolio, as the International Trade Commission has already ruled with respect to five other Sonos patents. In all, we believe Google infringes more than 200 Sonos patents, and today’s damages award, based on one important piece of our portfolio, demonstrates the exceptional value of our intellectual property. Our goal remains for Google to pay us a fair royalty for the Sonos inventions it has appropriated.”

Google, on the other hand, argues that it has developed those technologies independently. “This is a narrow dispute about some very specific features that are not commonly used,” the tech behemoth said. “Of the six patents Sonos originally asserted, only one was found to be infringed, and the rest were dismissed as invalid or not infringed. We have always developed technology independently and competed on the merit of our ideas. We are considering our next steps”. Time will tell how Google responds. There are still plenty of pending lawsuits between the two companies. It remains to be seen whether they continue the battle in the courtroom or settle the disputes on their own.