- Law Firms
- Sonos patent underlying jury verdict is invalid, judge says
- Judge said patent used to ‘enrich a pretender’ by ‘sleight of hand’
Oct 9 (Reuters) – A California federal judge has thrown out a $32.5 million verdict for wireless-audio company Sonos (SONO.O) against rival Google (GOOGL.O) after finding that the Sonos patents at the heart of the case were unenforceable.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup said on Friday that Sonos had improperly tried to connect its patents for multi-room audio technology to a 2006 application to claim that its inventions predated Google’s devices.
“This was not a case of an inventor leading the industry to something new,” Alsup said. “This was a case of the industry leading with something new and, only then, an inventor coming out of the woodwork to say that he had come up with the idea first.”
A Sonos spokesperson said on Monday that the ruling was “wrong on both the facts and law” and that the company would appeal. Representatives for Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision on Monday.
The case is part of a sprawling intellectual property dispute between the former collaborators that includes other lawsuits in the U.S., Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Sonos also won a limited import ban on some Google devices from the U.S. International Trade Commission last year based on different Sonos patents, which Google has appealed. Google has countered with its own patent lawsuits in California and at the ITC.
The companies previously worked together to integrate Mountain View, California-based Google’s streaming music service into Sonos products. Sonos first sued Google in 2020, accusing the tech giant of copying its technology in wireless audio devices including Google Home and Chromecast Audio.
Sonos won $32.5 million in damages from Google in San Francisco in May after a federal jury found that Google’s devices infringed one of the company’s patents. Google asked Alsup to toss the verdict on several grounds, including that Sonos strategically held off on applying for the patents for more than a decade until the tech giant had introduced its allegedly infringing devices.
Alsup agreed with Google on Friday that Sonos had connected its 2019 patent applications to an application from 2006 to receive artificially early priority dates. Google began selling its competing devices in 2015, and the judge said Google’s products “anticipated” the 2019 patents and made them invalid.
The case is Sonos Inc v. Google LLC, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:20-cv-06754.
For Google: Sean Pak of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan
For Sonos: Clement Roberts of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe
Reporting by Blake Brittain
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, for Reuters Legal. He has previously written for Bloomberg Law and Thomson Reuters Practical Law and practiced as an attorney.