About two years ago, Sonos sued Google for patent infringement regarding multi-room speaker technology. Today, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) has ruled in Sonos’ favor, placing import restrictions on several of Google’s hardware products — the Nest, Pixel and Chromecast — as reported by The New York Times.
Google responded to the ruling by rolling out several software changes and bypassing patent-infringing technology — a measure the tech giant believes will not affect its ability to import and sell its products. Will do
What has been stolen?
Sonos made a name for itself with its innovative multi-room speaker technology, which allows networks of speakers throughout the home to intelligently communicate with each other and be controlled centrally via smart devices.
Sonos claimed that Google stole key elements of this technology after a partnership in 2013, and has since used its mass to produce competing products that underpin Sonos’ products.
Notably, there are five patents that were allegedly infringed, and ITC has ruled in Sonos’ favor for all five. They include the ability to simultaneously accommodate the volume of multiple devices on the same network, synchronization of multiple devices on a network, and the initial setup of such devices.
How does this affect me?
Firstly, the import ban proposed by ITC is only for Google hardware products being imported into the US, and the commission has given the tech giant 60 days to comply before imposing the ban.
Just before that deadline arrives, we expect Google to have software updates that implement workarounds to avoid infringing these five patents, thus negating the import ban. In fact, according to a Google spokesperson speaking to The Nerdshala, ITC has already approved these measures.
In fact, this means that we may not see these import restrictions taking effect and, unless you are a user who is using specific features covered by the patent, you will not be required to make any changes. Not likely to be noticed.
Google has already implemented some of these solutions for volume adjustment and initial network setup. For smart home devices and speakers, users will need to individually adjust the volume of all units in the speaker group (whether by voice or app controls).
On top of that, “a small group of users will need to use the ‘Device Utility App’ (DUA) to complete product installation and updates”. It’s not clear which users this will affect, but it will likely be customers buying a new but not-yet-updated Google smart home device and there should only be a problem upon initial setup of the device.
For now, the impact of this landmark patent case won’t be much on Google device users, but the precedent it sets could well affect the price and design of the tech giant’s future products.
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