On March 13, 2024, the Federal Court of Appeal (the FCA) issued its decision in Google LLC v Sonos Inc., 2024 FCA 44, upholding the Federal Court’s decision (in 2022 FC 1116) that Sonos Inc. (Sonos) did not infringe claim 7 of Google LLC’s (Google) Canadian Patent No. 2,545,150 (the 150 Patent).

Google’s 150 Patent relates to a system for adaptive echo and noise control in electronic equipment (e.g., smart speakers). The system is intended to cancel echoes and supress noise that may interfere with communications to equipment, such as voice commands.  Claim 7 of the 150 Patent relates to an electronic device having both an echo canceller and a noise suppressor, wherein “an order of echo cancellation and noise suppression” is “adaptively determine[d]” based on “an amount of noise”.

Google took the position that the Federal Court did not properly construe the claim when it relied on expert evidence to find that in the context of the 150 Patent, echo cancellation and noise suppression constitute distinct processes, as the term “echo” is distinct from (and not simply a type of) “noise”.  Google argued that the Federal Court failed to consider “echo cancellation” as not being limited to the method described in the 150 Patent; rather, it extends to the minimization of echoes by other means, which would be a type of noise suppression. Additionally, Google asserted that the Federal Court erred by failing to recognize the term “an order” within the phrase “an order of echo cancellation and noise suppression” could encompass an order in which either the echo cancellation or the noise suppression was available but not performed.

The FCA noted that since expert evidence is often considered in determining how a person skilled in the art would have understood certain terms in a patent claim at the relevant date, the weighing of this evidence is a question of mixed fact and law.  Thus, where the interpretation of a patent claim turns on the weight given to expert evidence, such review is subject to a standard of palpable and overriding error.

In applying this standard, the FCA rejected Google’s submissions, finding that the Federal Court did not improperly limit the scope of the claim in issue and that it was open to the Federal Court to reach its conclusion concerning the meaning of “an order”. Based on these findings, the FCA determined that it was not necessary to consider the parties’ remaining arguments and, accordingly, dismissed Google’s appeal with costs.

Summary By: Steffi Tran



24 04 03

Disclaimer: This Newsletter is intended to provide readers with general information on legal developments in the areas of e-commerce, information technology and intellectual property. It is not intended to be a complete statement of the law, nor is it intended to provide legal advice. No person should act or rely upon the information contained in this newsletter without seeking legal advice.

E-TIPS is a registered trade-mark of Deeth Williams Wall LLP.