Sonos, the US manufacturer of networked, smart speakers, has won a patent dispute against Google. The ITC trade authority ruled that Google infringes five Sonos patents on its products. These products may no longer be imported without changes. Since most of the devices are manufactured in Asia, a ban on imports by the ITC would stop sales of the technology in the West.
The ITC follows a judgment from the summer. Sonos had already filed the lawsuit in early 2020. Since then, Google launched a counterclaim and Sonos launched another lawsuit – these proceedings are still being negotiated separately.
The ITC’s decision will force Google to circumvent the five offending patents. They are about technologies for synchronizing audio playback, volume control and WLAN connection. The ITC has already approved a workaround with which Google can implement similar solutions in its products without patent infringement. If Google updates its products with these solutions, the company can avoid stopping sales.
Apparently at least one of these workarounds has already been played: The volume control for Chromecast disappeared with Android 12 in the meantime from smartphones, before it was later available again with an update. Android expert Mishaal Rahman suspects that the Chromecast volume control has been changed in such a way that it no longer infringes any patents.
No uniform volume control
However, not everything will go around so smoothly: In a community post, Google offers owners of home speakers a few changes that should reduce comfort. In future, the volume of each individual speaker in loudspeaker groups will have to be set separately – the uniform controller is therefore no longer required. In addition, you will no longer be able to control the volume using the volume button on cell phones.
“A small part of users” will also have to download an additional app when setting up Google speakers in the future. However, the entry does not reveal which users this affects. These changes are intended to prevent a sales stop, said a Google spokesman for the technology magazine The Verge. According to this, Google has 60 days to implement the workarounds approved by the ITC.