OAKLAND, Calif. – Google has infringed audio technology patents owned by loudspeaker maker Sonos and is not allowed to import products that infringe Sonos’ intellectual property rights into the US, a commercial court ruled Thursday.
The United States International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial body that settles trade cases and can block imports of goods that infringe patents, reached its final verdict on Thursday, completing a two-year investigation into the intellectual property dispute.
The matter is now under presidential review. The commission found that Google had violated the Tariff Act of 1930, which aims to prevent unfair competition through measures such as importing products that infringe US patents, trademarks or copyrights. The Commission also issued an injunction against Google.
The final verdict follows a preliminary ruling by a commission judge in August that Google has infringed Sonos ‘patented speaker technology and should not be allowed to import products that infringe Sonos’ intellectual property. After this first decision, the whole Commission met to consider whether this decision should be adopted or repealed.
Sonos had asked the Trade Commission to block the import of Google products that the speaker maker claims to be infringing its patents. These include Google Home smart speakers, Pixel phones and computers, and Google’s Chromecast streaming video device. These items are made in China and shipped to the United States.
As tech companies are scrutinized by regulators and politicians, smaller competitors are bringing the business practices of the largest companies in the industry to justice. Epic Games, creators of the popular Fortnite game, Lawsuit filed against Apple and Google through App Store commissions. Facebook, now renamed Meta, was sued in November through a now-discontinued photo-sharing app called Phhhoto, which claimed Facebook was violating antitrust laws.
Sonos has claimed that it has been sharing details of its technology with Google as of 2013, when the two companies started working together. Initially, Google wasn’t a competitor, but the company began to break into the Sonos realm – first with a small device for streaming music in 2015, and then its Google Home speaker in 2016.
Sonos said Google infringed more than 100 of its patents and proposed a licensing deal to Google. The two companies could not agree.
Sonos also has two pending patent infringement proceedings against Google in federal court. The first case, filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in January 2020, is on hold pending a decision by the International Trade Commission because of overlapping patents. A second case involving other patents is pending in the US District Court in San Francisco.
This is a developing story. Check again for updates.