Sonos’ Patent Win Will Change Google’s Smart Speakers—for Now

On Thursday, the US International Trade Commission, which guidelines on import legal guidelines, decided that Alphabet-owned Google infringed on audio technology patents held by sensible speaker firm Sonos, a major win for Sonos in a two-year-long David v. Goliath lawsuit. The fee mentioned that Google has infringed on 5 Sonos patents, and issued a “limited exclusion order” prohibiting the import of sure audio applied sciences, controllers, and elements made by Google.

Google, unsurprisingly, says it’s not backing down: It plans to enchantment, and has 60 days to take action earlier than the ITC’s ruling goes into impact. Sonos, in the meantime, has two patent infringement circumstances towards Google nonetheless pending in federal court docket. “Those two pending lawsuits are important, because the ITC doesn’t have the authority to award damages,” says Peter Toren, a Washington, DC–based mostly mental property lawyer.

But Google clearly anticipated that this is likely to be the result of the ITC’s overview, as a result of again in August 2021 the corporate presented a series of product redesigns to ITC decide Charles Bullock, who decided the proposed workarounds would not infringe on Sonos’ patents. On the heels of the ITC ruling yesterday, Google shared a number of the adjustments it’s making to its sensible audio system.

So how does the ITC’s ruling, which has the potential to dam all imports of sure merchandise except Google complies, have an effect on the product expertise? For one, the adjustments Google will roll out apply to Google sensible audio system and Nest Hub shows. Google hasn’t offered a full listing of affected gadgets, so it’s unclear how or whether or not this impacts different Google merchandise, equivalent to Pixel telephones or Chromebooks. The updates will roll out “in the coming days,” in accordance with spokesperson Nicol Addison. And for now, the updates are all software-based.

Google says the flexibility to regulate speaker quantity by group will go away; clients will now want to regulate every speaker’s quantity individually. And, “you’ll also no longer be able to change your Speaker Group volume using your phone’s physical volume button,” the corporate says. Casting capabilities may also be affected on non-Google sensible gadgets with Chromecast inbuilt, equivalent to these made by Lenovo or JBL, except the audio system are up to date to the newest firmware. And some customers will now not expertise computerized software program updates on their sensible audio system; as a substitute, they’ll must obtain and set up a Device Utility app. This will “ensure your device is connected to Wi-Fi and receives the most updated software version,” Google says.

These might seem to be comparatively small adjustments, however a big a part of the enchantment of multiroom wi-fi sensible audio system—a market Sonos helped pioneer again when it first launched 20 years in the past—is the flexibility to sync up a number of audio system and management them concurrently. Some of that ease of use shall be eradicated with these adjustments.

The ITC’s ruling may additionally have an effect on future Google designs. And extra adjustments may come down the road, relying on the outcomes of the federal lawsuits. (One of these, which was filed in US District Court in Los Angeles, is on pause till the ITC determination is finalized, according to The New York Times. The different case, which was filed in US District Court in San Francisco, is continuing.)

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