Bulletins

International Trade Commission sides with Sonos against Google

The decision could lead to an import ban for Google speakers, streaming devices and even phones.

CEO Patrick Spence

Sonos has been doing some heavy lifting in its legal fight with Google.

Photo: Andrej Sokolow/picture alliance via Getty Images

The International Trade Commission finalized its ruling on a trade dispute between Sonos and Google on Thursday, finding that Google had violated patents held by Sonos with its cast and audio technologies. As a result, Google may have to temporarily halt the import of a wide range of hardware products, including smart speakers and displays, streaming devices and even its Pixel phones.


The ruling reaffirms an initial ITC decision made in August; the matter is now facing a presidential review.

Sonos Chief Legal Officer Eddie Lazarus called the decision an "across the board win that is surpassingly rare in patent cases" in a statement sent to Protocol on Thursday afternoon. "It is a possibility that Google will be able to degrade or eliminate product features in a way that circumvents the importation ban that the ITC has imposed," Lazarus said. "But while Google may sacrifice consumer experience in an attempt to circumvent this importation ban, its products will still infringe many dozens of Sonos patents, its wrongdoing will persist, and the damages owed Sonos will continue to accrue."

"While we disagree with today’s decision, we appreciate that the International Trade Commission has approved our modified designs and we do not expect any impact to our ability to import or sell our products," said Google spokesperson José Castañeda via email. "We will seek further review and continue to defend ourselves against Sonos’ frivolous claims about our partnership and intellectual property."

Google did put a few tweaks to its existing products in place Thursday afternoon, which it attributed to "a recent legal ruling." Among other changes, the company removed a feature that let people control the volume of all of their speakers simultaneously.

Sonos and Google are also facing off in court over these alleged patent infringements. Google scored some procedural points when it was able to move that lawsuit from Texas to California in September. However, with a looming import ban, it's more likely that Google will settle the lawsuit with Sonos out of court.

Update (4:35 p.m. PT): This post was updated with an amended statement from Google as well as details on the impact the ruling is having on people using Google's products.

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