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Google infringed on Sonos speaker tech patents, trade judge says

The decision is preliminary, and a final ruling will be made in December.

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Sonos won a preliminary ruling in a legal battle against Google.
Sonos

Google infringed on five patents owned by the speaker maker Sonos, a judge for the US International Trade Commission ruled on Friday

The decision is preliminary, and the commission can decide whether to accept or reverse it in its final decision on Dec. 13. 

The ruling follows a lawsuit Sonos filed in January 2020, alleging that the search giant stole its technology when the two companies partnered to make sure Google's music service worked well with Sonos speakers. The Santa Barbara, California-based company alleged that Google infringed on five patents, including tech that lets people listen to audio in different rooms. 

Six months later, Google filed a countersuit against Sonos, alleging that the wireless speaker company infringed on five of its patents when it comes to search features for music libraries, noise cancellation, wireless connectivity and more.

Friday's ruling, issued by Chief Administrative Law Judge Charles E. Bolluck, said Google was in violation of the Tariff Act of 1930. Bolluck, however, didn't explain what had triggered the infringements.

The dustup with Sonos comes as Google faces intense scrutiny from federal and state officials over its size and competitive practices. The search engine giant is the target of several major antitrust lawsuits, including a landmark case by the US Department of Justice, and two complaints from bipartisan coalitions of states. Regulators and prosecutors are investigating everything from Google's search and advertising businesses to its Android operating system, the most dominant mobile software in the world.

Sonos on Friday applauded the ITC decision. "We are pleased the ITC has confirmed Google's blatant infringement of Sonos' patented inventions," Eddie Lazarus, Sonos chief legal officer, said in a statement. "This decision re-affirms the strength and breadth of our portfolio, marking a promising milestone in our long-term pursuit to defend our innovation against misappropriation by Big Tech monopolies."

Google downplayed the ruling. "We do not use Sonos' technology, and we compete on the quality of our products and the merits of our ideas," Jose Casteneda, a spokesman for the tech giant, said in a statement. "We disagree with this preliminary ruling and will continue to make our case in the upcoming review process."