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Google Facing, Speaker Pixel 6 & Chromebook Ban After Sonos Loss

Google could be facing major problems in the USA after Sonos won a major patents case with the real possibility emerging that their home audio speakers and Google’s Pixel smartphones and Chrome notebooks could be banned.

The US International Trade Commission is taking a closer look at Sonos’s claims that Alphabet, Google infringes patents. This issue blew up when in January 2020, Sonos brought a patent infringement case against the big search Company who were fighting a head on battle with archrival Amazon and their Alexa enabled speakers.

Two of the five patents in question, involve techniques to synchronize audio playback and thereby eliminate minor differences that the ear can interpret as echoes.

The other patents involved ways to pair up speakers to create stereo sounds, adjusting volumes of either single or groups of speakers with a single controller, and a way to easily connect the system to a home’s Wi-Fi.

Sonos whose former Intel audio executives developed the first Internet-connected speakers, originally had meetings with Google who after having a behind the scenes look at the speakers went out and copied the technology back in 2013 the audio Company claims.

The Google speakers were first launched in 2016.

Sonos claims Google used that access to “blatantly and knowingly” copy Sonos’ audio features for their Google Home speaker range.

Now the ITC is considering whether to shut some Google smart home devices, phones, and laptops out of the U.S. market.

The International Trade Commission said it would review part of a judge’s findings that Google infringed five Sonos patents and cleared product redesigns of any violation.

Both companies asked the agency to review aspects of the judge’s findings that went against them.

Bloomberg claims that specifically, the commission said it would review whether products accused of infringing two of the patents are “articles that infringe at the time of importation.”

The commission said it won’t review remaining issues in the judge’s determination, and will consider a possible remedy, which could mean an import ban.

A final decision is scheduled to be issued on Jan. 6.

A Sonos spokesperson said, “We are pleased that the commission will be affirming the ALJ’s ruling that all five Sonos patents at issue are valid and that Google infringes all five of those patents,” the company said. “We also look forward to engaging further with the commission on the details of the remedy to which we are entitled and pursuing our damages case in District Court.”

Google denied using Sonos technology.

“We compete on the quality of our products and the merits of our ideas,” said José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson. “We disagreed with the preliminary ruling and will continue to make our case in the review process.”

Recently Google has filed its own claims in district court accusing Sonos of trying to take credit for work owned by Google.

Investors have been watching the ITC case closely, seeing it as a test Sonos’s ability to enforce its intellectual property, protect its market from competitors, and develop a new revenue stream in licensing.

Sonos wants imports halted at the border, as well as an order preventing sales of any Google products already brought into the U.S.

The audio Company claims Google is trying to evade a potential import ban by pointing to “incomplete” products that shouldn’t have been considered by the judge.

Google acted to ensure it would never be affected by an import ban by “flooding the case with piecemeal, hypothetical redesigns, dashed off with no quality control, and never incorporated into any product through any standard product design channels,” Sonos told the commission.

Google said it “expended considerable resources in designing” products that worked around the Sonos patents, and that there was “overwhelming evidence” in its favour even though “Sonos threw the kitchen sink at Google’s redesigns throughout this investigation.”

The case is In the Matter of Certain Audio Players and Controllers, 337-1191, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

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