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Google loses patent case against Sonos, speakers to change

Owners of Google speakers may lose some functionality, as a court case between Google and Sonos has seen the former lose, with some functionality to go.

It isn’t always easy to be a consumer, especially when two big companies are fighting it out, unbeknownst to the owner of technology.

That’s been happening for some time between Sonos and Google, with the former fighting for use of its patents, which Google has just lost a court case on. Effectively, Google may have violated patents owned by Sonos without paying for them, which in turn means some of Google’s products are affected.

For those a little out of the loop, the backbone of what Sonos has created over the years is a multiroom speaker system, and as such, much of its research and technology is around that. That includes the connection of speakers around a home — what is the very nature of multiroom sound — and an area Sonos holds patents for, which Google has been ruled as violating according to the International Trade Commission (ITC).

A spokesperson for Sonos said:

“We appreciate that the ITC has definitively validated the five Sonos patents at issue in this case and ruled unequivocally that Google infringes all five. That is an across the board win that is surpassingly rare in patent cases and underscores the strength of Sonos’s extensive patent portfolio and the hollowness of Google’s denials of copying. These Sonos patents cover Sonos’ groundbreaking invention of extremely popular home audio features, including the set up for controlling home audio systems, the synchronisation of multiple speakers, the independent volume control of different speakers, and the stereo pairing of speakers.”

While that’s good news for Sonos, the resulting win is also bad news for owners of Google speakers, which will unfortunately see some changes to products, losing the ability to control the volume of groups of speakers easily.

In what could easily be a frustrating situation for owners of Google speakers, and speakers that use Google Cast to work, it means one of the main reasons to buy and own multiple speakers may not actually work, which in turn is a loss for customers.

We’ve not heard from Google how this will affect its current and future products beyond this change, nor do we know if it will affect other speakers that use similar processes, such as the HomePod Mini speakers from Apple and Amazon’s Echo speakers with the ability to group, but with this win from Sonos, it may mean that anyone who wants to control speakers collectively may need to work with Sonos because of those patents.

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