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Google Loses to Sonos on Speaker Patent in Ongoing Tech Fight

Oct. 7, 2022, 5:08 PM

An administrative tribunal wiped out parts of a Google LLC patent for wireless sensor communication Thursday amid a wide-ranging intellectual property battle with home speaker competitor Sonos Inc.

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board found that all challenged claims in US Patent No. 10,229,586 are obvious in light of prior publications.

In underlying litigation, Google accused Sonos of infringing five patents, including the ‘586 patent, for wireless speaker technology ranging from search, software, networking, audio processing, digital-media management, and streaming, while refusing to pay for licenses to use the technology.

The PTAB agreed last November to review the validity of another Google patent asserted in the suit at Sonos’ request; a final decision is pending.

Sonos initially kicked off the IP battle in 2020, filing patent-infringement complaints in federal court in Los Angeles and before the International Trade Commission that claimed Google stole Sonos’ multiroom audio technology through an integration partnership with Google Play Music. The commission investigated Google’s products and ordered it to stop importing a range of phones, smart home devices and laptops that conflicted with Sonos patents—unless it implemented software changes to avoid the ban altogether.

Google has also accused Sonos of violating patents for features including “hotword” voice control and wireless and wired charging, which resulted in an ITC import probe.

Sonos and Google recently escaped a trial over some of their dueling infringement claims last month, but they must still face willful infringement and damages claims in a related trial set for May 2023.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP represents Sonos. Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner LLP represents Google.

The case is Sonos, Inc. v. Google LLC, P.T.A.B., IPR 2021-00964, claims invalidated 10/6/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelcee Griffis in Washington at kgriffis@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com