On November 2, 2020, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (the Court) in Google LLC v. Sonos, Inc., No. 20-cv-03845-EMC, granted Sonos’ motion to dismiss an action brought by Google alleging patent infringement of its U.S. patent no. 8,583,489 (‘489 Patent) on the ground that the invention is patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

Google originally filed a complaint against Sonos, a developer and manufacturer of audio products, alleging patent infringement of five patents, among them the ‘489 Patent. The ‘489 Patent relates to process of determining if media content is available from different content sources and notifying a user when the availability of the media content changes. In the filed complaint, Google asserted that Sonos is using “substantial volumes of Google’s technology” without permission in its products, including the Sonos S1 Controller App and S2 App.

The Court applied the two-step test for subject matter eligibility set out in Alice Corporation Pty Ltd v CLS Bank International which involves (i) determining whether a claim is directed to a patent-ineligible concept of the law of nature, natural phenomena or an abstract idea, and if so, (ii) considering whether the elements of the claim include an inventive concept that is sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than the ineligible concept itself.

The Court found that the invention claimed in the ‘489 Patent is directed to an abstract idea (i.e. collecting information, analyzing it, and providing a notification) and lacks an inventive concept that is beyond a mere “well-understood, routine, conventional activity”. The Court also concluded that the ‘489 Patent does not claim any improvement in computer technology but rather uses computer technology to overcome human limitations in manually searching for media content, which does not create patent eligibility.

 Summary By: Anna Troshchynsky


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