Over the past decade, software patents have become a recurring subject of litigation in not just the US but other countries as well. This directly results from the phenomenon of big-tech giants usurping intellectual property from smaller companies and then dragging them through years of litigation in order to financially throttle them.
Recently, the two-year long tussle between Google vs Sonos Inc. over the ownership of five patents based on the technology used in plaintiff’s home speakers came to a bitter end for Google. The defendant company ‘Sanos’, despite having fallen victim to the intellectual piracy of the plaintiff, managed to prove the authenticity of its products.
During the preliminary proceedings, it was claimed by Sonos that after a partnership back in 2013, the plaintiff used its massive resources to produce competing products that undercut those of Sonos and infringed five of their patents. Five months later, Google countersued, alleging Sonos was infringing its own five patents. The suit for one of the patents (‘489) was dismissed under §101 of the US Patent Act8, as it was held invalid owing to its abstract nature. Contrary to Google’s claims, the technology used was not an inventive concept and was rendered ineligible for patenting.
This decision was soon followed by Sonos filing an additional case against the tech giant for the infringement of five additional patents. However, on August 13th 2021, a federal judge in the US International Trade Commission issued a preliminary ruling that Google had indeed infringed the five patents which were cited by Sonos in the original suit. Finally, on January 7th 2022, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in favour of Sonos and imposed an import ban on several of Google’s products.
Judging from the fact that Google not only infringed the defendant’s patent but also countersued the company, Google LLC v. Sonos, Inc can be listed as a classic case of tech giants targeting much smaller companies’ intellectual property. It is easily conferred that the impact of the judgment is not just limited to the orders passed by the commission; indeed, the victory of Sonos Inc. holds significant precedential value for smaller companies who are fighting back against being targeted by behemoths such as Google.