Google Is Actively Violating Sonos Patents, Rules US Customs Service

Google Sonos patents
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Google Sonos patents
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Photo Credit: James Jadotte

The US Customs Service has ruled Google is continuing to violate Sonos’ patents, violating its importation ban imposed by the International Trade Commission (ITC).

“Today, the US Customs Service ruled publicly that Google has been violating the importation ban that the ITC imposed after finding that a host of Google’s products infringe five foundational Sonos home audio patents,” Sonos Chief Legal Officer Eddie Lazarus said in a statement.

“US Customs Service confirmed that Google was flouting the importation ban and continuing to import infringing products in violation of that ban. This finding marks yet another example of Google continuing to misuse our intellectual property and acting in wholesale disregard of the law. We remain committed to defending our IP and will continue to do so on behalf of our own technology and the broader innovation landscape.”

Sonos sued Google for patent infringement back in 2020 after the two worked together on smart speakers. Throughout numerous legal battles in the case, Sonos came out on top. In January 2022, the ITC ruled that Google could no longer import phones, laptops, or speakers because they violate five Sonos patents. Google has continued to import these products for sale in the United States, despite the ITC ban.

Sonos contacted the US Customs Service and asked them to investigate why Google was still importing the devices. In January 2022, Digital Music News reported on a vast array of Google smart hardware losing features that were baked into the ecosystem from day one. A shortlist of Google devices affected include:

  • Google Home Mini
  • Nest Mini
  • Google Home
  • Nest Audio
  • Home Max
  • Home Hub
  • Nest Hub
  • Nest Hub Max
  • Chromecast
  • Chromecast Audio
  • Nest WiFi Point
  • Chromecast Ultra
  • Chromecast
  • Google TV
  • Pixel Smartphones (All Generations)

The US Customs Service report suggests the updates were made to avoid violating Sonos patents. But the report also finds that some or all of the devices infringe on at least two Sonos patents.

“To avoid further importation exclusions, Google must either further degrade its customer experience or pursue a fair licensing agreement with Sonos,” a Sonos representative told Paul Thurrott. So Google has refused to license Sonos’ patents, and the Android smart speaker ecosystem may be looking at further degradation if it doesn’t license those patents soon.