Sonos Prevails Over Google in Wireless Multi-Room Audio System Patent Dispute

Judge William Alsup issued a patent infringement opinion on Thursday, finding in favor of Sonos Inc. in its suit against Google LLC over the infringement of patent Nos. 10,848,885 and 9,967,615. The order focused solely on the first patent and not only upheld its validity but also found that Google’s “Cast-enabled apps” infringe a contested claim of the asserted patent.

Judge Alsup explained that the ‘885 Patent deals with user control of multi-room media systems. According to Sonos and prior to 2006, it was difficult for users to dynamically control speaker groups. The ‘885 Patent allegedly solved the problem by allowing a user to “customize and save multiple groups of smart speakers or other players, each according to a ‘theme or scene,’ and then later ‘activate’ a customized group, called a ‘zone scene,’ on demand.”

For example, the invention permits a person who enjoys listening to broadcast news in the morning in certain rooms of their house to form a “zone scene” named “Morning” that is composed of speakers in the bedroom, bathroom, and den. After saving the “Morning” zone scene, the user can “invoke” the group on demand through an app on the “controller” device, like a smartphone and listen to their desired content.

The order addressed cross-motions for summary judgment as to infringement and the validity of claim 1 of the ‘885 Patent. In order to prove infringement, Sonos had to demonstrate that Google’s accused products, including its Google Home app, Google Play Music app, and YouTube Music app, “meet each properly construed limitation of claim 1 either literally or under the doctrine of equivalents.”

Though Google leveled multiple arguments that questions of infringement present triable issues of fact, Judge Alsup found otherwise. For instance, Google argued no infringement because the accused products allow users to make speaker groups that are not bound by a thematic name, and can instead use an abstract name such as “A, B, or C.”  “This only shows, however, that Google’s products have capabilities in addition to those recited by the claim,” the court opined.

In addition, the court declined arguments of invalidity. Neither contentions that the claim was directed toward an abstract idea nor ones contending that the patent did not disclose the claim held water with Judge Alsup. The court said it would soon issue an order on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment as to the 9,967,615 patent.

Sonos is represented by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP and Lee Sullivan Shea & Smith LLP and Google by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP.