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Sonos sues Google for alleged patent infringement and theft of smart speaker tech

Sonos claims that it gave Google detailed diagrams of its speaker tech in 2013. The search giant launched its first smart product two years later.

  • Published: January 8, 2020 11:17 AM IST
Sonos Smart Speaker

Sonos, the pioneer in wireless multi-room speaker system, has accused Google and Amazon of stealing its tech. The Santa Barbara, California-based company has sued Google in two federal courts. As part of its lawsuit, the company is seeking financial damages and ban on the sale of Google devices, including smart speakers, smartphones and laptops in the United States. It is accusing the search giant of infringing on five of its patents. Interestingly, the company is also accusing Amazon and Sonos executives allege that both the companies used their leverage to squeeze the smaller company.

The company says Google agreed to design its music service to work easily with Sonos’ home speakers in 2013. For the project, the company reportedly handed over the effective blueprints to its speakers. Sonos executives claim that offering details of its speakers seemed harmless since Google didn’t make its own speakers back then. Now, the maker of popular wireless speakers feels squeezed between two major tech giants. As New York Times reports, the lawsuit extends far beyond patents and Google. The lawsuit highlights the difference in power dynamics between various tech companies.

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Sonos is dependent on both Google and Amazon for its business. It uses Google to advertise its speakers and sells them on Amazon. The company has also built music services and virtual assistants of these brands into its smart speakers. Sonos employees also correspond via Gmail and its business runs off Amazon’s cloud-computing services. It now claims that when Google and Amazon launched their own speakers, undercutting Sonos’ prices by stealing its technology. The company complained about it privately for years. Sonos CEO Patrick Spence says that he could not take it anymore.

Read Why Sonos sued Google and not Amazon

“Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology,” Spence told NYT 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. We’re left with no choice but to litigate.”

While it is alleging both Amazon and Google of patent infringement, the company had decided to sue only Google. It does not want to risk battling two tech giants at once. Spence has discussed testifying to the House antitrust subcommittee soon. “We are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith,” a Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman told NYT. “We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously,” he added. Amazon spokeswoman denied infringing on Sonos’ technology.

Sonos has sued Google in Federal District Court in Los Angeles and in the US International Trade Commission. It is alleging that Google infringed on its five of its patents but claims that both Google and Amazon have violated roughly 100 of its patents. It is not clear how much it sought in damages. Spence and other Sonos executives told NYT that they agonized over the decision to sue Google since it underpins their business. It also claims that Google imposed stricter rules for using its virtual assistant after it demanded the search giant to license its technology.

When Sonos debuted its multi-room speaker technology in 2005, the company revolutionized home sound systems. It promised wireless sound throughout a house and delivered on it. As the speakers gained popularity, Sonos began patenting its innovations and even displays them on its website. It claims to have given Google detailed diagrams on how its speakers worked wirelessly in 2013. Google released Chromecast Audio, a device that can turn any old speaker into a wireless one, two years later. The lawsuit comes while smaller tech companies are going after big tech giants for patent infringement and unfair practices.

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  • Published Date: January 8, 2020 11:17 AM IST