Tech industry giants tend to expand. While Apple may be the gold standard for this, Google is also making moves. The search engine juggernaut now also has computers, smartphones and other hardware, including smart speakers. In 2013, it began a partnership with Sonos, a speaker manufacturer that was one of the first to go wireless. Google used Sonos in its products but then terminated the partnership while keeping some design elements provided by Sonos, leading to a two-year lawsuit that concluded January 6, 2022.
The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) determined that Google and its parent company Alphabet violated all five patents in the case. As a result, Google cannot import some of its products manufactured in China. This includes Google Home smart speakers, Pixel phones and computers, and the Chromecast streaming device. The ban goes into effect in 60 days.
The ITC ruling confirms the findings by a commission judge’s initial finding last August, but it could have overturned that decision. The ITC ruled that Google violated the Tariff Act of 1930, preventing unfair competition when it violated patent law. The commission also issued a cease-and-desist order to Google.
More to come
Sonos is not done. It still has two patent infringement lawsuits pending in federal courts. The first one was stayed until this recent ruling by the ITC, and the second involves a different set of patents. Sonos alleges that Google stole more than 100 patents during its partnership, so more cases may come.
Sonos won its case, but the damage to Google and Alphabet is likely to be minimal with only 18% of Google and Alphabet revenue tied to hardware sales. Plans are already in the works to change products to avoid the import ban. Of course, a vast majority of Google’s revenue comes from online advertising. Nonetheless, this win could set a precedent as Google and other tech giants expand product lines.