App-controlled technology

Partial victory for Sonos and EIP against Google over consumer electronics

Munich Regional Court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Google against Sonos. Almost simultaneously, Hamburg Higher Regional Court upheld a preliminary injunction filed by Sonos against Google. With these recent patent suits, the battle over control technology for consumer electronics has only just begun.

13 July 2021 by Mathieu Klos

Sonos, Google At the centre of the dispute between Google and Sonos is the control of sound systems via mobile phone ©rh2010/ADOBE STOCK

Wireless sound systems manufacturer Sonos has not infringed Google’s EP 15 79 621. Munich Regional Court handed down this ruling at the end of June, dismissing a lawsuit filed by Google (case ID: 21 O 7265/20). A few days later, Google appealed against the ruling. However, the court has suspended a second lawsuit, which concerns another patent covering search result technology.

In 2020, Google sued the German and European Sonos company in Munich for infringing two patents. The patents protect digital rights management and search functions. Sonos’ speakers can be controlled via mobile devices, which Google claims infringes its patents. As such, Google demanded that Sonos cease and desist.

In March, with the consent of both parties, the Munich Regional Court suspended the second lawsuit concerning EP 27 64 491 (case ID: 21 O 7264/20). Here, the court is waiting on the Federal Patent Court’s decision in Sonos’ nullity suit. The US company has challenged both Google patents, although rulings are not yet available.

Sonos strikes back

Sonos countered Google’s actions with two nullity suits, as well as via two PI applications at the Hamburg Regional Court. The company accuses the German and European Google company of infringing EP 35 54 005 B1 with some of its mobile phones, wireless speakers and associated control app (case IDs: 327 O 378/20 and 327 O 36/21). Furthermore, Sonos demands that Google stop the sale and distribution of the relevant products.

The court rejected the PI against the German Google company in February. Sonos appealed against this decision.

Florian Schmidt-Bogatzky

However, Hamburg Regional Court granted the PI against the European Google company in April. Google appealed the ruling (case ID: 3 U 74/21) and requested a stay of enforcement.

But in June, the Hamburg Higher Regional Court rejected the initial application. At that time, the written PI judgment of the first instance was unavailable. Last Friday, Google filed a second application for a stay of enforcement, once the court made the written judgment available.

A Google spokesperson says, “Google has already released an update for the product.”

Extensive proceedings are also pending between the two opponents in the US, France and the Netherlands.

Quinn Emanuel and Allen & Overy side by side

Unsurprisingly for Google, Quinn Emanuel filed its German lawsuits. The firm is also conducting the US proceedings. Quinn Emanuel is considered Google’s go-to law firm, although the company also hires other law firms in Germany. As always, Quinn Emanuel is conducting the proceedings without the involvement of external patent attorneys.

Currently, however, Quinn Emanuel has no patent teams in France and the Netherlands. Here, according to JUVE Patent information, Google called in Allen & Overy. In the Netherlands, the company relies on IP boutique Brinkhof.

Sonos instructed EIP for the German proceedings. Like Quinn Emanuel, the firm has a proven reputation for mobile phone litigation and files patents for Sonos through its UK office. Now, this long-standing relationship extends to the Düsseldorf team led by Florian Schmidt-Bogatzky.

Marcus Grosch

Patent attorneys from df-mp supported the EIP team in technical matters. The two teams are acquainted from their cooperation for Conversant against Daimler and other cases.

In France, Sonos relies on Cyrille Amar of Amar Goussu Staub, who is experienced in tech litigation. According to JUVE Patent information, Sonos is instructing De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek in the Netherlands.

For Google
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan (Munich): Marcus Grosch (lead), Jesko Preuß; counsel: Katrin Gerstenberg; associates: Tonio Allendorf, Andreas Hahne, Andreas Duensing, Holger Hiss
In-house (Munich): Ralf Uhrich

For Sonos
EIP Europe (Düsseldorf): Florian Schmidt-Bogatzky, Christof Höhne; associate: Sebastian Fuchs
df-mp Dörries Frank-Molnia & Pohlman (Munich): Dominik Ho; associates: Ben Flocke, Stefan Sohn (all patent attorneys)
In-house (Munich): Rebecca Brown (Senior Counsel IP EMEA)

Regional Court Munich, 21st Civil Chamber
Tobias Pichlmaier (presiding judge)

Regional Court Hamburg, 27th Civil Chamber
Stephanie Zöllner (presiding judge)