Sonos cites ‘vexing’ Google ties but won’t seek new judge in patent fight

A man clears broken glass from a window as he works to board up the Sonos store after it was damaged by protesters after they participated in a march against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

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  • Judge told parties that clerk once worked for Google
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(Reuters) – Sonos Inc will not seek to disqualify San Francisco U.S. District Judge William Alsup or one of his law clerks in its patent dispute with Google LLC, the company said Friday, despite sounding alarms about the clerk’s ties to Google and its law firm.

Alsup’s disclosure that one of his clerks previously worked for Google and still owns Google stock has created a “vexing situation” for Sonos, the company said in a court filing. It said it also believes the unnamed clerk worked for the law firm that represents Google, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, while the dispute was pending.

But since the judge has determined the clerk can be impartial, Sonos will not pursue a recusal bid, its lawyers wrote.

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A Google spokesperson said Tuesday that the company had no comment. Sonos and its attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alsup last week rejected Sonos’ request for more information about the clerk. He also told the parties that the clerk placed his Google stock in a blind trust.

The case is part of an international patent dispute between Sonos and Google over smart-speaker technology. Sonos won an order from the U.S. International Trade Commission earlier this year blocking imports of some Google products.

In the case now before Alsup, Sonos sued Google in 2020, alleging its Chromecast streamers, Home speakers, Pixel phones, and other devices infringe its patents.

The case is Sonos Inc v. Google LLC, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:21-cv-07559.

For Sonos: Clement Roberts and Bas de Blank of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe

For Google: Charles Verhoeven of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

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Law clerk’s Google ties raise conflicts questions in Sonos patent case

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Blake Brittain

Thomson Reuters

Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com

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