Google has been ordered to pay Sonos $32.5 million for infringing one of its smart speaker patents, marking a significant development in a long-fought legal war between the two companies that’s spanned more than three years and multiple lawsuits.
Filed in a San Francisco court on Friday (May 26), the jury verdict awarded Sonos $2.30 for each of the more than 14 million Google devices that were sold incorporating the patented technology.
The jury found that Google had not infringed a second patent at issue in the case.
Sonos first sued Google in January 2020, claiming the tech giant had infringed multiple patents for its smart speaker technology after gaining access to it through a 2013 partnership under which Sonos integrated Google Play Music into its products. Just two years after that partnership was reached, Sonos alleged that Google then “flooded the market” with cheaper competing products (under the now-defunct Chromecast Audio line) that willfully infringed its patented multi-room technology. Sonos additionally claimed Google had also since expanded its use of Sonos technology in more than a dozen other products, including the Google Home, Nest and Pixel lines.
“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,” said Sonos in a statement on the verdict. “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.”
In its own statement, a Google spokesperson said, “This is a narrow dispute about some very specific features that are not commonly used. 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.”
The legal battle between the two tech companies has been protracted, with both sides going on the offensive at different points. In June 2020, Google filed suit against Sonos, alleging the smart speaker maker had actually infringed several of its own patents. Sonos subsequently filed two more lawsuits alleging that Google had infringed several additional patents it held.
Sonos filed one of those two cases with the U.S. International Trade Commission, which ruled in January 2022 that Google had infringed a total of five of Sonos’ audio technology patents and barred it from importing the infringing products from China. However, the commission also found that Google had successfully redesigned its products to avoid the Sonos patents and could continue selling those reworked versions in U.S. stores — an allowance Sonos had fought to prevent.
In August 2022, Google fired another volley with two additional lawsuits, claiming the smaller company used seven different patented Google technologies to instill the so-called “magic” in Sonos software.