Sonos Slaps Google With Patent Lawsuit Over Smart Speakers

Speaker maker Sonos is once again in the headlines after it was revealed it is now suing Google, after it alleged that the search engine giant had stolen its smart speaker technology.

According to the New York Times, Sonos filed two lawsuits covering five patents on its wireless speaker design, including technology that lets wireless speakers connect and synchronize with one another. The first lawsuit was filed in a Federal District Court in Los Angeles.

The second lawsuit, filed with the International Trade Commission, reveals that Sonos is seeking to ban the sales of Google’s smartphones, laptops, and speakers in the United States.

Google lawsuit

Sonos complaint against Google stems from a 2013 agreement between the two firms.

According to the NY Times, Google agreed to design its music service (Google Play Music) to work easily with Sonos’s home speakers. And for that project, Sonos handed over the blueprints to its speakers.

Handing over the blueprints was not an issue for Sonos at the time, as Google did not make any sort of speaker system back then. But that changed in 2016 when Google launched its smart speaker range.

So on Tuesday this week, Sonos sued Google in two federal court systems reported the NY Times, and it is seeking financial damages and a ban on the sale of Google’s speakers, smartphones and laptops in the United States, which allegedly use the stolen tech.

There is little doubt that Sonos is being squeezed by the likes of Google and Amazon in the speaker market. Indeed, Google and Amazon now each sell as many speakers in a few months as Sonos sells in one year.

Since 2016 Sonos apparently began privately complaining to Google about it allegedly infringing its technology, months after Google had launched its Home smart speaker.

When Google launched the Google Home Max and Home Mini in 2018, Sonos once again complained about Google allegedly infringing its patents.

But Google it seems was not listening, and in the end Sonos felt it had no choice but to file lawsuits over the matter.

Google disappointed

“Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology,” Sonos CEO Patrick Spence was quoted by the NY Times as saying in a statement.

“Despite our repeated and extensive efforts over the last few years, Google has not shown any willingness to work with us on a mutually beneficial solution,” said Spence. “We’re left with no choice but to litigate.”

But Google has hit back and Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman, told the NY Times that Google and Sonos had discussed both companies’ intellectual property for years, “and we are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith.”

“We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously,” he added.

Sonos alleges that in actual fact Google is infringing 100 Sonos patents in total.

Amazon

And it is not just Google, but also allegedly Amazon as well that is allegedly infringing Sonos patents.

Sonos apparently chose to sue Google first, as it does not have the capacity to sue two tech giants at once.

A spokeswoman for Amazon, Natalie Hereth, was quoted by the NY Times as saying the company did not infringe on Sonos’s technology.

“The Echo family of devices and our multiroom music technology were developed independently by Amazon,” she reportedly said.

But Sonos believes it has evidence against both firms.

In 2016 Sonos apparently bought the Google devices and used a technique called packet sniffing that monitored how the speakers were communicating, the NY Times reported. They discovered that Google’s devices used Sonos’s approach for solving a variety of technological challenges.

Sonos executives said they had found that Amazon’s Echo speakers also copied Sonos technology.

Earlier this month Sonos was in the headlines over user criticism for its recycling scheme that sees useable but old speakers being bricked as part of a ‘recycling scheme’, but which adds to the e-waste problem most countries experience.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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