App-controlled technology

Sonos withdraws PI application against Google in Hamburg

In the global patent dispute between Sonos and Google, the latest decision marks a turning point in favour of the Android giant. The battle over control technology for consumer electronics see Sonos withdraw its applications for a preliminary injunction against Google in the Regional Court Hamburg. Furthermore, Google is also seeking an injunction in the Netherlands.

17 September 2021 by Mathieu Klos

The withdrawal of the two PI proceedings in Hamburg over infringement of wireless speaker technology was a setback for Sonos. But the global dispute with Google is not yet over. ©DanielKrasoń/ADOBE STOCK

Wireless sound systems manufacturer Sonos has apparently withdrawn its two preliminary injunction applications from the Hamburg patent courts. That Higher Regional Court Hamburg confirmed to JUVE Patent that Sonos withdrew its appeal against a negative decision from the Regional Court (case ID: 3 U 47/21). The latter court had not granted the PI against the German Google company.

However, in the second case, the Hamburg Regional Court granted a 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.

Nevertheless, Google persisted and filed a second application. At that time, the written PI judgment of the first instance was unavailable. Google asked the court for a stay of enforcement following the court making the written judgment available. Now Sonos has withdrawn its PI application. This renders the PI against Google moot.

Deliberations cast doubt over PIs

In its PI applications, Sonos accused the German and European Google companies of infringing EP 35 54 005 B1 through some of its mobile phones, wireless speakers and associated control app. Furthermore, Sonos demanded that Google stop the sale and distribution of the relevant products.

After reconsideration, the judges had doubts about granting the PIs and notified the parties accordingly. The Hamburg courts are typically considered to be particularly generous in granting PIs. It seems the judges did not want to resolve the issues of infringement and validity of the two Sonos patents in the injunction proceedings.

However, Sonos is yet to file any substantive lawsuits against Google. But this could change, whether in Hamburg or at another German patent court.

Global dispute gains momentum

The two adversaries are facing off in patent courts globally, including France, the Netherlands and the US, in addition to Germany. The US International Trade Commission has only recently confirmed Google’s infringement of five Sonos patents.

In the Netherlands, Google seeks an injunction. The tech giant accuses Sonos of infringing two patents EP 27 64 491 and EP 15 79 621. The patents protect digital rights management and search functions. A user can control Sonos’ speakers via mobile devices.

As recently as last Friday, the District Court of The Hague heard a first case regarding EP 491. Observers expect a judgment in five weeks. The court will hear the second case regarding EP 621 at the beginning of October.

In Germany, Sonos’ two PI proceedings in Hamburg were part of a counter attack against two infringement suits by Google. In 2020, Google sued the German and European Sonos company in Munich for infringing the same two patents it claimed in the Netherlands.

Google and Sonos in Germany

In Germany, Google claims that Sonos infringes its patents. As such, Google demanded that Sonos cease and desist. The wireless sound systems manufacturer immediately challenged both Google patents. The Federal Patent Court has not yet ruled on their validity.

In March this year, with the consent of both parties, the Munich Regional Court suspended the lawsuit concerning EP 491 (case ID: 21 O 7264/20). Now, the court is waiting on the Federal Patent Court’s decision on the validity.

In June, the Munich Regional Court handed down a first ruling, dismissing a lawsuit filed by Google (case ID: 21 O 7265/20). The court ruled that Sonos has not infringed Google’s EP 621. However, Google has appealed against the ruling.

Like the old days

Contrary to what large international IP teams like to see, Google and Sonos do not rely on a one-stop shop. Rather, both companies put together teams from top law firms in the respective countries for the European proceedings.

Sonos, Google

Marcus Grosch

Unsurprisingly for Google, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Sullivan 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.

In France, Google called in Allen & Overy. However, according to JUVE Patent information, the tech giant relies on IP boutique Brinkhof and patent attorney firm V.O. in the Netherlands.

Sonos instructed Düsseldorf-based EIP partner Florian Schmidt-Bogatzky for the German proceedings. Patent attorneys from df-mp Dörries Frank-Molnia & Pohlman supported the EIP team in technical matters.

In France, Sonos relies on Cyrille Amar of Amar Goussu Staub.

In the Netherlands, Sonos instructs the patent team of full-service firm De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, and patent attorney firm De Vries & Metman.

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

Sonos, Google

Florian Schmidt-Bogatzky

For Sonos
EIP Europe (Düsseldorf): Florian Schmidt-Bogatzky, Christof Höhne (partners); associate: Sebastian Fuchs
In-house (Munich): Rebecca Brown (senior counsel IP EMEA)

Higher Regional Court Hamburg, 3rd Civil Senate
Michael Schmidt (presiding judge)

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