Google loses Sonos patent case, starts stripping functionality from speakers

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Following the initial decision in August, the US International Trade Commission has issued a final decision Saying that Google has infringed five Sonos smart speaker patents. The decision could result in some products such as the Nest Audio, Chromecast and Pixel line being banned in the US, but Google has designed an ITC-approved software downgrade, which removes infringing features from users’ products.

Sonos essentially invented the connected speaker category for streaming music, but the advent of voice assistants has spurred Big Tech across Sonos’ realms. Sonos says That while it was pitching Google for support for Google Play Music, Google took a behind-the-scenes look at the operation of Sonos in 2013. Sonos says that Google used that access to “explicitly and intentionally” copy Sonos’ features for the Google Home speaker. , which was launched in 2016. Sonos sued Google in early 2020.

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Sonos Chief Legal Officer Eddie Lazarus the new York Times, “We appreciate that ITC has conclusively validated five Sonos patents in this case and has explicitly ruled that Google infringes all five. This is a sweeping victory in patent cases.” Very rare.”

Sonos’ patents all pertain to setting up and controlling groups of speakers. It’s probably best to see what’s changing, as Google’s response to the situation has been to push out a software update that removes or works around the infringing patent. on a Google Nest community post calledChanges in the upcoming chairman group,A Google representative tells customers:

Due to a recent legal decision we are making some changes to the way you set up your device and [how] The functionality of the Chairman’s group will work going forward. If you’re using the speaker group feature to control voice in the Google Home app, by voice with Google Assistant, or directly on your Nest Hub display, you’ll notice a few changes:

  • To adjust the volume on your speaker groups, you’ll need to adjust each speaker individually, rather than using the group volume controller. You won’t even be able to change the volume of your speaker group using your phone’s physical volume buttons anymore.
  • Unless you have speaker groups with other brands of Cast-based devices like JBL or Lenovo, most speaker groups should continue to function as expected. They need to be on cast firmware version 1.52.2722222 or higher. check out this article How to find your device’s firmware version or contact your device manufacturer.
  • A small group of users will need to use a “Device Utility App” (DUA) to complete the installation and update of the product. You may receive a prompt to download and run DUA, and this will ensure that your device is connected to Wi-Fi and receives the most updated software version.

We will continue to support our users and work to minimize any additional changes.

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The volume change is the biggest annoyance on this list. Previously, it was possible to control each playing speaker with a slider and change the group speaker volume by voice; Now, it looks like only individual controls will be available. Google is also removing the ability to control the volume of speaker groups via your phone’s physical volume buttons, a feature that was removed early in the Android 12 update. It looks like it’s no longer even possible to set the speaker group volume through the smart home routine.

The comments on Google’s post are worth a read, as it’s filled with angry customers demanding refunds and threatening lawsuits. a user Well summed up customer feedback by saying, “So you got sued by Sonos and we pay the price? Either get some better lawyer and win the lawsuit, or pay Sonos royalties, or issue refunds to customers.” start doing it.”

Despite Sonos’ victories, the company hasn’t gotten the results it wants. Sonos wants Google to pay royalties for its patents, not pull the rug from under consumers by stripping features from products they’ve already purchased. It looks like until that happens, Sonos will continue to pressure Google. Sonos’ victory statement ends with:

It is likely that Google will be able to degrade or eliminate product features in a way that bypasses the import restriction imposed by ITC. But while Google may sacrifice the consumer experience in an effort to circumvent this import restriction, its products will still infringe dozens of Sonos patents, continue to accrue wrongdoing, and continue to accrue damages to Sonos. Alternatively, as other companies have already done, Google could pay reasonable royalties for technologies it abuses.

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