Updated: August 14, 2021 9:19:02 am
Written by Daisuke Wakabayashi
Google infringed on speaker-technology patents held by Sonos and should not be allowed to import products that violate Sonos’ intellectual property, a judge said in a preliminary finding by the US International Trade Commission that was released Friday.
In January 2020, Sonos sued Google in federal court and in front of the US International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial body that decides trade cases and can block the import of goods that violate patents. Google later filed a countersuit against Sonos, claiming that Sonos was infringing on its patents.
Sonos had asked the commission to block imports of Google Home smart speakers, the company’s Chromecast systems and Pixel phones and computers. Those products are made in China and shipped to the United States.
The brief ruling did not explain why the judge, Charles E. Bullock, believed Google had violated the Tariff Act of 1930, which aims to prevent unfair competition through actions such as the import of products that infringe on US patents, trademarks or copyrights.
The judge’s ruling is not the last word. The full commission has to consider his decision before making a final ruling, which is scheduled to take place December 13. If an import ban is imposed, it will not take effect for 60 days — well after the holiday shopping season.
José Castañeda, a spokesperson for Google, said the company does not use Sonos’ technology. “We disagree with this preliminary ruling and will continue to make our case in the upcoming review process,” he said.
On Wednesday, Eddie Lazarus, Sonos’ chief legal officer, called Google a “serial infringer” of Sonos patents. On a conference call with analysts, he estimated that Google had infringed on more than 150 patents owned by Sonos, although issues with only five patents were raised to the commission. The case in front of the commission is just “the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Sonos has said that Amazon is also violating its patents — a charge that Amazon denies. Sonos and Google are also locked in legal disputes over patents in California and Texas as well as France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Sonos’ share price rose 6% in after-hours trading Friday.