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Judge tosses out $32.5 million fine against Google in Sonos lawsuit

Sonos originally sued Google for infringing on its speaker patents.

T3 Magazine via Getty Images

Google has successfully convinced a California federal judge that it did not infringe on Sonos' multi-room audio patents. As Reuters reports, US District Judge William Alsup has thrown out a previous verdict that slapped the tech giant with a $32.5 million fine for infringing on patents held by Sonos related to managing groups of speakers.

The judge explained that Sonos' patents for the lawsuit "ostensibly descended from [a] 2006 provisional application." However, the company apparently didn't file the applications for the patents in question until 2019, and it didn't roll out the technology to its own products until 2020. That's years after Google, in 2014, presented Sonos with a plan to use multi-room audio technology while exploring a collaboration.

Since Sonos connected its patents to a 2006 provisional application, they appeared to have predated Google's products. But Judge Alsup said that the early application failed to disclose the actual invention, and that in 2019, Sonos amended the specification of its patent application to insert new matter. "This was not a case of an inventor leading the industry to something new," Alsup wrote in his decision. "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 — wringing fresh claims to read on a competitor’s products from an ancient application."

Sonos sued Google in federal court in early 2020, accusing it of violating five of its speaker patents. Patrick Spence, the company's CEO, said back then that Google had been "blatantly and knowingly" duping Sonos tech and refusing to cooperate on a "mutually beneficial solution." Earlier this year, a California federal jury had ruled that Google did infringe on a patent Sonos holds and ordered the tech giant to pay $32.5 million in penalty. Alsup also served as the judge for those proceedings, but in his newer decision, he said "trial brought to light what happened here."

In a statement, a Sonos spokesperson told Reuters that the new ruling was "wrong on both the facts and the law." Based on that, Sonos is clearly not going to accept the newer verdict: The spokesperson said that the company is planning to appeal the decision.