Federal Judge Tosses $32.5 Million Sonos Verdict Against Google: ‘It Is Wrong That Our Patent System Was Used in This Way’

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sonos google patent lawsuit
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A judge has overturned a multimillion-dollar verdict handed down in the long-running patent legal battle between Google and Sonos. Photo Credit: Emil Diallo

Back in May, a jury awarded Sonos over $32.5 million in its years-long patent-infringement complaint against Google. Now, a federal judge has tossed the jury verdict, finding, among other things, that the patents in question are “unenforceable.”

Judge William Alsup just recently deemed the relevant patents (numbers 10,848,885 and 10,469,966) “invalid” and vacated the multimillion-dollar jury award, consisting specifically of $2.30 for each of 14,133,558 involved products.

To recap – Digital Music News has covered the convoluted legal battle in detail since it initiated in 2020 – Sonos maintained that Google had infringed upon smart speaker technology concerning customizable multi-room audio-playback systems.

Sonos filed a “provisional application” for the patents in 2006 but only submitted “applications for these patents” and presented “the asserted claims for examination” in 2019, according to the latest order in the long-running courtroom confrontation.

Meanwhile, 2014 is said to have seen the companies discuss a potential collaboration on the patent-described technology. Though the talks failed to produce a deal, Google went ahead and began incorporating the outlined system into speakers in 2015, while Sonos did the same with its own products starting in 2020, per the legal text.

According to the presiding judge, however, the over one-decade window separating the 2006 provisional application and the “prosecution” of the patents was “unreasonable and inexcusable.”

“Having considered the totality of the circumstances,” Judge Alsup spelled out, “this order concludes, by clear and convincing evidence, that Sonos was guilty of unreasonable and inexcusable delay in its prosecution of the patents in suit.”

“Remarkably, at trial, Sonos never provided any sworn explanation for why it waited until April 2019 to claim overlapping zone scenes,” the court continued. “The only sworn explanation addressed a different delay: delay in coming out with its own products that implemented overlapping zone scenes, which took place in June 2020.”

Besides the described prosecution laches’ rendering the patents “unenforceable,” according to the document, Sonos’ inclusion of “new matter” in its applications is said to have placed the “effective filing date” in August of 2019 as opposed to 2006.

“It is wrong that our patent system was used in this way,” Judge Alsup concluded. “With its constitutional underpinnings, this system is intended to promote and protect innovation. Here, by contrast, it was used to punish an innovator and to enrich a pretender by delay and sleight of hand. It has taken a full trial to learn this sad fact, but, at long last, a measure of justice is done.”