Google smart speaker features disappear following Sonos patent ruling

Controlling the volume of Nest smart speaker clusters became more difficult after Google lost a key round in a patent dispute with Google, and Nest speaker users are understandably angry.

On the Nest community forum, Google notified users on Thursday that it would “make some changes” to the functionality of the speaker group, the most important being that from now on, you will need to adjust the volume of the speakers in Google’s speaker groups individually instead using a group volume slider.

Another big change for Google smart speaker users is that they won’t be able to use the physical volume controls on their phones to change the volume of speaker groups.

The speaker pool changes apply to users who want to “control volume in the Google Home app, by voice with the Google Assistant, or directly on their Nest Hub screen,” Google said.

Otherwise, the speaker groups should “continue to work as expected” unless you are using “other brands of Cast-based devices,” such as JBL or Lenovo, in which case your firmware update may be required.

Google added that a “small set of users” can be asked to use the “Device Utility application” (or DUA) to install the necessary updates.

The abrupt disappearance of the group speaker volume functions came after (as detailed by The New York Times), the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Thursday that Google had infringed five Sonos patents related to networked and synchronized home speakers, a dispute that has been brewing for years. Sonos first sued Google for its patents in 2020.

Google now faces an import ban on products that violate Sonos patents (including Google Nest smart speakers and Chromecast streaming devices, all imported from China) that could take effect within 60 days of the ruling.

In an emailed statement to TechHive, Sonos Chief Legal Officer Eddie Lazarus noted that Google may “downgrade or remove product features in a way that circumvents the ITC’s import ban,” adding that Google “can, as other companies have already done.” – pay a fair royalty for the technologies it has misappropriated ”.

In response, a Google spokesperson said in a statement: “While we do not agree with [the] decision, we appreciate that the International Trade Commission has approved our modified designs and do not expect any impact on our ability to import or sell our products. We will seek further reviews and continue to defend ourselves against Sonos’ frivolous claims about our association and intellectual property. “

Meanwhile, users on Google’s Nest forum said they were caught in the crossfire.

“This is not right,” wrote one user. “Denies completely why [I] bought Google speakers for the house. I think a refund is needed, your devices are no longer working as advertised and sold. I will have to look elsewhere.

“So Sonos sued you and we paid the price?” wrote another user.

While you await a presidential review of the trade ban, presumably Google will be working on ways to re-enable group speaker volume control in a way that avoids Sonos patent infringements.

Of course, another option would be for Google to simply pay a royalty fee to Sonos.

Google did not comment on when the group speaker volume slider could be restored.

Updated shortly after publication with a comment from Google.

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