Google has been ordered to pay Sonos $32.5 million for infringing on the company’s smart speaker patent. A jury verdict issued in a San Francisco courtroom on Friday found that Google’s smart speakers and media players infringed on one of two Sonos patents at issue.
The legal battle started in 2020 when Sonos accused Google of copying its patented multiroom audio technology after the companies partnered in 2013. Sonos went on to win its case at the US International Trade Commission, resulting in a limited import ban on some of the Google devices in question. Google has also had to pull some features from its lineup of smart speakers and smart displays.
Image: United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Last August, Google sued Sonos over allegations that the audio company infringed on Google’s smart speakers and voice control technology. This most recent trial started earlier this month.
“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,” Eddie Lazarus, Sonos’ chief legal officer and CFO, says in a statement to The Verge. “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.”
“This is a narrow dispute about some very specific features that are not commonly used,” Google spokesperson Peter Schottenfels says in a statement to The Verge. “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.”
Sonos didn’t come out of the case completely victorious, however, as the jury decided that Google’s Home app didn’t infringe on a separate patent filed by Sonos. The judge also told jurors to “disregard a $90 million damages estimate from a Sonos expert witness, saying he had decided that some of the evidence provided was inadmissible,” Law360 reports.
The decision will go down as an embarrassing defeat for Google, but both companies were the subject of blunt criticism from Judge William Alsup, who has presided over many tech company courtroom battles. Alsup expressed frustration that this case ever went to trial in the first place and the two sides were unable to settle. He said it was “emblematic of the worst of patent litigation.” He also noted the technical jargon surrounding the patents at issue, at one point checking with jurors to make sure they hadn’t fallen asleep, according to Law360.
Update May 26th, 7:18PM ET: Added Sonos’ statement.