Google loses patent case against Sonos, will remove features from Nest and Chromecast products

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Gorilla

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https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/202...starts-stripping-functionality-from-speakers/

So apparently Sonos has a patent on adjusting the volume of more than one device at a time. Google has to remove that ability from its products. So now you have to adjust each device individually and you can no longer adjust volume with the volume button on your mobile device.

This actually angers me. I use chromecast audios and have a ton of them set up for my mother who wanted music in every room but already had a bunch of stereos. That's not what makes me mad though. I'm mad because one of the requirements for a patent is that it is non-obvious. How the heck is adjusting the volume on multiple devices that are all playing the same audio not obvious? How is using the volume button on a device to adjust volume not obvious?

Then again I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the incompetence of the US Patent Office. I mean, Apple got a patent for square app icons and won its lawsuit against Samsung. Who would have ever imagined the use of squares.
 

HockeyJon

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This actually angers me. I use chromecast audios and have a ton of them set up for my mother who wanted music in every room but already had a bunch of stereos. That's not what makes me mad though. I'm mad because one of the requirements for a patent is that it is non-obvious. How the heck is adjusting the volume on multiple devices that are all playing the same audio not obvious? How is using the volume button on a device to adjust volume not obvious?

I have the same question.
 

Darunion

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Because the patent is over the using a singular volume control to control and synchronize the volumes of multiple networked devices. Functions are patent-able in the US. The crappy part is google just deleting features that people utilized on what they purchased. It shouldn't be rolling down hill to the customers, but it will. This part will likely get a class action started, so everyone can get their $4 check to cover the difference.
 
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Holy crap! This is infuriating! I also have chromecasts set up in a group for the house for playing music. I don't use it much, but its such a BASIC FEATURE that it shouldn't be patentable. Does Sonos have a dirt cheap device that allows me to use with my own speaker setups???
 

Lakados

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https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/202...starts-stripping-functionality-from-speakers/

So apparently Sonos has a patent on adjusting the volume of more than one device at a time. Google has to remove that ability from its products. So now you have to adjust each device individually and you can no longer adjust volume with the volume button on your mobile device.

This actually angers me. I use chromecast audios and have a ton of them set up for my mother who wanted music in every room but already had a bunch of stereos. That's not what makes me mad though. I'm mad because one of the requirements for a patent is that it is non-obvious. How the heck is adjusting the volume on multiple devices that are all playing the same audio not obvious? How is using the volume button on a device to adjust volume not obvious?

Then again I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the incompetence of the US Patent Office. I mean, Apple got a patent for square app icons and won its lawsuit against Samsung. Who would have ever imagined the use of squares.
Sadly in this case what sealed the deal is from their previous meetings when Google was in working with Sonos to get the Sonos product line working with google services. That fell through and they pinched all the best parts they were working on. It was pretty blatant.
 

Nobu

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You could get a z-wave/zigby hub and devices, and script the volume control yourself. Then you wouldn't have to worry about features being pulled for whatever reason. Should be a pretty good pool of premade scripts by now, too, maybe some half decent hubs.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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I don't own any of these products, so it doesn't impact me personally, but damn does this piss me off.

I guess Sonos is yet another patent troll.

Patents are supposed to protect developed products that companies have spent time and money bringing to market, not simple ideas that anyone could think of over a beer.

If Google had stolen some sort of method they used to adjust the volume across multiple devices, that would be one thing, and if they did, shame on them, but the very idea of adjusting volume on more than one device at a time should definitely not be patentable.

If they want to play this game, Google should be able to make a slight improvement to the all unit volume control feature and patent that as an improvement.

It's just another example of how the patent system is hopelessly broken. The US Patent Office should be staffed with highly capable and technically skilled people who can tell the difference, and who can reject bad patent and trademark applications (like a rectangle with rounded corners) and only approve appropriate ones where there is lots of development and investment to protect, but like all U.S. agencies except the military they have a fraction of the budget they need to do the job right, and thus we get this shit.
 
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I wonder why judges don't start shaming the patent office for silly stuff like this. Even if it's only commentary. Some of them legislate from the bench ;)
 

Thug Esquire

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I'm really surprised at the short-sightedness of getting mad about the patents and this decision. The legal decision is a GOOD thing.

We can take this at face value: one of the biggest companies in the world (Google) stole technology from a much, much smaller company (Sonos) and tried to make them irrelevant. Not only did they steal it, they did it under the guise of a joint development effort that was meant to benefit both Google and Sonos. That's fucked up. Imagine if Sonos was your company and Google tried to eat your lunch: you bet your ass you'd want some means of restitution! FFS. (Incidentally, shit like this is probably why Sonos-competitor Denon opted to NOT support Google Play Music / YouTube Music on their Sonos-equivalent "Heos" devices. I happen to own a few of them and the fact that YT music doesn't work on them sucks.)

But like Google or not (full disclosure: I own zero Sonos devices, and several Google assistant devices), Google is in the wrong.
  1. Don't be mad at the judge
  2. Don't be mad about patents
  3. Don't be mad at Sonos
If you're pissed because Google's taking away features you thought you paid for, that's totally fair. You paid for them, and Google needs to make that right. But Sonos, the courts, and patents in general ain't the bad guy, here.
 

t1337duder

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I don't own any of these products, so it doesn't impact me personally, but damn does this piss me off.

I guess Sonos is yet another patent troll.

Patents are supposed to protect developed products that companies have spent time and money bringing to market, not simple ideas that anyone could think of over a beer.

If Google had stolen some sort of method they used to adjust the volume across multiple devices, that would be one thing, and if they did, shame on them, but the very idea of adjusting volume on more than one device at a time should definitely not be patentable.

If they want to play this game, Google should be able to make a slight improvement to the all unit volume control feature and patent that as an improvement.

It's just another example of how the patent system is hopelessly broken. The US Patent Office should be staffed with highly capable and technically skilled people who can tell the difference, and who can reject bad patent and trademark applications (like a rectangle with rounded corners) and only approve appropriate ones where there is lots of development and investment to protect, but like all U.S. agencies except the military they have a fraction of the budget they need to do the job right, and thus we get this shit.
Yep, if only we gave beaurocrats more money - that would solve everything

😂😂😂
 

emphy

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I'm really surprised at the short-sightedness of getting mad about the patents and this decision. The legal decision is a GOOD thing.
...
It's not a good thing for a simple reason: this patent is yet another one in the "do some routine thing, but automated via the computer". It is, in fact, extremely short-sighted to be in favor of this case just because it is google who was infringing this "patent". These kinds of patents stifle innovation, especially by other smaller startups that are now required to check every routine automation and/or pay extortion money to be able to implement those.
 
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4saken

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Love my Sonos setup, especially during parties and the holidays(for the wife and kid). Didn't even know this lawsuit was a thing. Crazy.
 

Nicklebon

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As a very happy Sonos user and a user of many poor attempts prior I'll add this. If the way Sonos controls the volume of grouped unit is so obvious why then did no one do that way previously? Most things seem obvious once you've seen it done. It wasn't so obvious before and when Sonos did it made sense. To allow one to set a group of speakers each to their own individual volume level and then control the lot with a single slider retaining their relative volume was not obvious when it came out and having seen folks unfamiliar with the concept pick up my ipad and try to adjust the volume on my main floor speakers it still isn't. Google pulled a SCO and got their hand slapped for it. Good!
 

Nobu

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As a very happy Sonos user and a user of many poor attempts prior I'll add this. If the way Sonos controls the volume of grouped unit is so obvious why then did no one do that way previously? Most things seem obvious once you've seen it done. It wasn't so obvious before and when Sonos did it made sense. To allow one to set a group of speakers each to their own individual volume level and then control the lot with a single slider retaining their relative volume was not obvious when it came out and having seen folks unfamiliar with the concept pick up my ipad and try to adjust the volume on my main floor speakers it still isn't. Google pulled a SCO and got their hand slapped for it. Good!
Yep, that and a patent is more than the short blurb describing its contents. The actual patent may go into much more detail about the method they use. They might describe a ring bus, or a mesh topography...they might use fixed intervals, or a percentage, or some complex algorithm for determining the amount to change the volume in certain devices...there may be automatic adjustments made using a mic to help keep the relative volume the same, etc.
 

cdabc123

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As a very happy Sonos user and a user of many poor attempts prior I'll add this. If the way Sonos controls the volume of grouped unit is so obvious why then did no one do that way previously? Most things seem obvious once you've seen it done. It wasn't so obvious before and when Sonos did it made sense. To allow one to set a group of speakers each to their own individual volume level and then control the lot with a single slider retaining their relative volume was not obvious when it came out and having seen folks unfamiliar with the concept pick up my ipad and try to adjust the volume on my main floor speakers it still isn't. Google pulled a SCO and got their hand slapped for it. Good!
It was done before. Many homebrew surround systems did something similar for years before. It's kinda sounds like a trivial concept that a individual could (and have) implemented in setups.

Details of the particular patent make a difference. maybe its a innovative technique but simply "set a group of speakers each to their own individual volume level and then control the lot with a single slider" is a trivial and necessary concept to many systems that were in place long before and I find it hard to declare it innovative if they simply use a different mode of interfacing with the speakers.
 

cybereality

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You know what. I'm going to submit a patent for a button, that is on a computer case. And if you press the button, the computer turns on. Totally not obvious, and I spent several years of research and development coming up with this original idea.
 

dandirk

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So I don't know patents or the details of this case so can't specifically say here... But this is the internet so you are going to hear my uneducated opinion anyways lol.

Honestly on the fence on the discussion here. A really good innovation is usually one that seems simple and obvious, especially after the fact. This should be rewarded.

Yet locking out some of these things (like in this case) seems to limit the market as a whole, as competing devices can't progress and features then become fragmented (assuming all players innovate equally).

Though the counter to this is smaller competitors probably really need those protections to become viable in the market, thus improving the market and customer choice.

At the end of the day think some protections (even just 2 years or something) is probably overall better. Larger competitors benefit way more from lack of protections and patents actually benefit them less (they have so many other advantages impact is just less).

That all assumes we are working with a reasonable definition of what should be patentable... While I agree icon shape should not in considered, syncing volume controls is pretty different. There is some tech involved to do that and it's not an idea used in practically every other market/industry (shapes, colors, logos are used in everything, forever).
 

cybereality

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Also, Google are cheapskates. They obviously have enough money to license this patent from Sonos (or even just buy Sonos with cash) so the fact that they are removing the feature is just stingy.
 
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I'm really surprised at the short-sightedness of getting mad about the patents and this decision. The legal decision is a GOOD thing.

We can take this at face value: one of the biggest companies in the world (Google) stole technology from a much, much smaller company (Sonos) and tried to make them irrelevant. Not only did they steal it, they did it under the guise of a joint development effort that was meant to benefit both Google and Sonos. That's fucked up. Imagine if Sonos was your company and Google tried to eat your lunch: you bet your ass you'd want some means of restitution! FFS. (Incidentally, shit like this is probably why Sonos-competitor Denon opted to NOT support Google Play Music / YouTube Music on their Sonos-equivalent "Heos" devices. I happen to own a few of them and the fact that YT music doesn't work on them sucks.)

But like Google or not (full disclosure: I own zero Sonos devices, and several Google assistant devices), Google is in the wrong.
  1. Don't be mad at the judge
  2. Don't be mad about patents
  3. Don't be mad at Sonos
If you're pissed because Google's taking away features you thought you paid for, that's totally fair. You paid for them, and Google needs to make that right. But Sonos, the courts, and patents in general ain't the bad guy, here.
Good point. I stand partially corrected. You're right at least to a degree. Problem is that this ruling could really snowball towards evil in the future unfortunately, but in this case it sounds like the joint development really did lead to some real stealing.

These issues are so complex, it's hard to be black and white.
 

Mazzspeed

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I wonder why judges don't start shaming the patent office for silly stuff like this. Even if it's only commentary. Some of them legislate from the bench ;)
As consumers we have the choice to vote with our wallets. The problem is we appear totally incapable of doing so.
 

M76

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As consumers we have the choice to vote with our wallets. The problem is we appear totally incapable of doing so.
How do you vote with your wallet if features are removed after the purchase?

cCVqHor.png
 

MrGuvernment

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So can you get a refund on all google devices now since they dont offer the functionality you bought it for...
 

M76

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I'm really surprised at the short-sightedness of getting mad about the patents and this decision. The legal decision is a GOOD thing.
It is perfectly reasonable to get angry when a company alters or removes features that you based your purchasing decisions on.
We can take this at face value: one of the biggest companies in the world (Google) stole technology from a much, much smaller company (Sonos) and tried to make them irrelevant.
This is a problem with the patent system, this is no technology, this is a function, and functions should not be patentible, only the specific technology used to achieve the function.
Even so, google's shady dealings should not adversely affect the customers. This is not justice, google is not the looser who is being punished here, but the customers are. Google couldn't give a flying duck that they have to remove a feature from products they already sold many millions of.
Not only did they steal it, they did it under the guise of a joint development effort that was meant to benefit both Google and Sonos. That's fucked up. Imagine if Sonos was your company and Google tried to eat your lunch: you bet your ass you'd want some means of restitution! FFS. (Incidentally, shit like this is probably why Sonos-competitor Denon opted to NOT support Google Play Music / YouTube Music on their Sonos-equivalent "Heos" devices. I happen to own a few of them and the fact that YT music doesn't work on them sucks.)

But like Google or not (full disclosure: I own zero Sonos devices, and several Google assistant devices), Google is in the wrong.
  1. Don't be mad at the judge
  2. Don't be mad about patents
  3. Don't be mad at Sonos
If you're pissed because Google's taking away features you thought you paid for, that's totally fair. You paid for them, and Google needs to make that right. But Sonos, the courts, and patents in general ain't the bad guy, here.
I'm not mad at Sonos, I'm mad at the system that allows this kind of 'justice' where nobody wins. Google removes the feature, customers loose, sonos doesn't get anything but a moral victory, google sails off into the sunset. What kind of justice is this?
 

Hakaba

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Yeah, that should really send google the message, trash what you already paid for, why didn't I think of that?

Keep it then. Use it everyday and come to a forum and bitch about how you hate said company.

Glad you glossed over the sell part, would hate for someone to skip over a way to possibly recoup some of their loss.
 

Mystique

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The fact that this simple obvious concept is able to be patented, is a complete joke and everything wrong with how patents work in the USA. ( I don't own either device, I just think it's funny )
 

MrCaffeineX

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Yep, if only we gave beaurocrats more money - that would solve everything

😂😂😂
In this particular case, it might. The patent office is understaffed, and the people that work there largely have no understanding of the things they are reviewing. I deal with patent attorneys at work and they concur. The patent process has become a checklist verification, like many regulatory agencies that I also have to deal with at work. It is then left up to the courts to decide what is valid and what is not, which I always assumed was never the intention of the patent system.

To the matter at hand, Sonos was issued the patent and successfully defended it. It may not be the best or most efficient way to operate a system as complex as patents, but given the current state of things, it is working as intended in this case.
 

sc5mu93

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For those arguing that this was obvious, was it obvious in 2003? The priority date of the original filings relating to the patents in this case go back THAT far. In 2022, yes, it would probably be obvious, but in 2003/2004, my guess is probably not (especially with the breadth of granted filings).
And the complaining about the US Patent Office, the USPTO has its problems, but these patents (there were a family of patents related to this tech) were granted (in some form or another) by damn near every patent office in the world who really are worth a damn (including the EPO).

And no way Sonos is a troll. They put product in the stream of commerce and are FAR from being a non-practicing entity. I'm sure Google has been offered and could take license to keep the features you like in their product operational, but they have made that calculated risk.
 
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Thatguybil

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The fact that this simple obvious concept is able to be patented, is a complete joke and everything wrong with how patents work in the USA. ( I don't own either device, I just think it's funny )
It really is not easy to do what Sonos did. Changing the relative volume on multiple wireless speakers that are not being driven by a connected amp and getting the sound from each device to be sync’s and not drift is not trivial.

Try playing the same song on multiple devices at the same time, the audio will either not be sync’d or will drift over time.
 

Aurelius

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So, the point isn't that Sonos won, which is probably fair. The point is that Google has a bazillion dollars in cash and are too cheap to license this from Sonos.
I'm not so sure if it's being cheap so much as being overly proud or stubborn. Google doesn't want to license Sonos tech as that would mean admitting it swiped Sonos tech to use in its products.

On that note: it's moments like these that make me wonder why some folks effectively pine for Google monopolies (particularly in mobile). The fantasy is an open-platform paradise; the reality is that Google would likely pull more anticompetitive stunts like this. Openness was a business strategy meant to obtain control, not a philosophy.
 

cybereality

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On that note: it's moments like these that make me wonder why some folks effectively pine for Google monopolies (particularly in mobile). The fantasy is an open-platform paradise; the reality is that Google would likely pull more anticompetitive stunts like this. Openness was a business strategy meant to obtain control, not a philosophy.
Hey, but I can right click on Android.
 

M76

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Keep it then. Use it everyday and come to a forum and bitch about how you hate said company.

Glad you glossed over the sell part, would hate for someone to skip over a way to possibly recoup some of their loss.
Right, because selling the device you purchased and paid for and presumably like and got used to, should also show google who is boss. The point is that sonos was wronged, and the customers get punished for it, how is your solution a solution at all?
 

MrGuvernment

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How do you vote with your wallet if features are removed after the purchase?

View attachment 429947
Talk to a good lawyer = class action lawsuit to go against google and end up with one of those "If you bought DDR2 ram between 2000 and 2001 you are entitled to a possible piece of the money" as you here, you got $5 for Google screwing you over...

Or something like that.
 
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