Google’s smart home hardware may lose certain features thanks to a spat between it and the well-known audio maker Sonos. In 2021 it became clear that the two companies share a lot of tech that Sonos has managed to patent before Google, which meant they had to head to court to sort it out.
Now the US International Trade Commission has ruled that Google is in violation of five Sonos patents – ones specifically relating to smart speakers. The ruling is fairly harsh, and could even see Google barred from importing its Google Home tech into the US. Especially if Sonos is feeling particularly pernicious.
Sonos says ‘Adios Google’
“Sonos had asked the trade commission to block imports of Google products that the speaker company says infringes on its patents. They include Google Home smart speakers, Pixel phones and computers, and the Chromecast streaming video device. Those items are made in China and shipped to the United States,” The New York Times explains.
According to the report, this import ban will go into effect in 60 days if it’s upheld.
Fortunately, it doesn’t look like Google Home tech will disappear from the US yet. Google spokesperson José Castaneda tells The Verge, “We do not expect any impact to our ability to import or sell our products. ” According to them, the International Trade Commission already approved Google workarounds for each of the five patents.
What it does affect, however, is how the company’s smart speakers function. One of the affected patents by Sonos allows the user to toggle the audio volume of a speaker through a network. According to reports, this functionality was dropped in Google devices with Android 12 and recently reappeared on Pixel devices, pointing to a settlement between the two companies.
“Two of the other patents are about synchronizing multiple devices over a network; one is about setting up a playback device (such as a Wi-Fi speaker) for communication over the network to begin with,” The Verge details.
A new update was published on the Google blog named “Upcoming Speaker Group changes.” It details that users will now be required to download a separate app just to set up devices. They’ll also lose the ability to control the volume of a speaker group at the same time. This means each will have to be controlled individually, the same way they did in the Stone Age.