In 2020, Sonos accused Google of copying its patented multiroom audio technology after the companies partnered in 2013. While the case trudged through the courts Sonos went on to win its case at the US International Trade Commission, resulting in a limited import ban on some of the Google devices in question. Google has also had to pull some features from its lineup of smart speakers and smart displays.
Sonos’ chief legal officer and CFO Eddie Lazarus told The Verge. “This verdict re-affirms that Google is a serial infringer of our patent portfolio, as the International Trade Commission has already ruled with respect to five other Sonos patents. In all, we believe Google infringes more than 200 Sonos patents and today’s damages award, based on one important piece of our portfolio, demonstrates the exceptional value of our intellectual property. Our goal remains for Google to pay us a fair royalty for the Sonos inventions it has appropriated.”
Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said at the time that the case pertains to "some very specific features that are not commonly used" and that Sonos "mischaracterised our partnership and technology."
Sonos didn't come out of the case completely victorious, however, as the jury decided that Google's Home app didn't infringe on a separate patent filed by Sonos.
Judge William Alsup told jurors to "disregard a $90 million damages estimate from a Sonos expert witness, saying he had decided that some of the evidence provided was inadmissible."
Alsup, who has presided over many tech company courtroom battles, slammed both companies for not reaching a settlement before coming to court.
He said it was “emblematic of the worst of patent litigation.” He also noted the technical jargon surrounding the patents at issue, at one point checking with jurors to make sure they hadn’t fallen asleep.