Sonos and Google are Going to Battle Over Audio Patents (Updated: Google Countersues)

Sonos vs. Google

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Sonos, maker of high-end audio that kicked off the multi-room media industry years before everyone else caught on to the brilliant concept, is suing Google over patents it holds on that very technology. You probably don’t need me to explain this, but Sonos is pissed about Google Home units, interactions between them through Casting, how Google’s phones play a role in that, etc.

In a lengthy report from the New York Times, Sonos lays out the case that Google (and Amazon, which they aren’t suing just yet because they can only afford to sue one at a time), blatantly stole their technology, implemented it into various products, and then dramatically undercut Sonos in pricing to takeover the home audio market.

Sonos said that years ago, when they were working with Google to get Google Play Music as a music option within Sonos, they foolishly showed Google the blueprint to their technology. They now claim that Google took that and used it in their own devices. After years of unsuccessfully trying to license their patented technology to Google, they see no choice now but to sue Google to stop them from infringing on their intellectual property.

The full story is worth a read, but as you can imagine, Google has denied any wrongdoing, though Sonos says that their dealings with the search giant haven’t been at all clean. Google fired back at least once to Sonos’ demand by claiming Sonos was the one that was in-fact infringing on Google patents, yet didn’t provide many details.

According to Bloomberg Law, Sonos views products like the Google Home Max as a “Sonos clone,” and believe Google infringes on patents for adjusting volume levels for devices in different rooms, synchronizing audio among different devices, and more. Google apparently put Sonos on notice back in 2016 over patent concerns.

We’ll see how this all plays out, but it certainly seems like a big deal. After all, Sonos integrates Google Assistant, Google’s music service, and is very much reliant on some of Google’s services. But in the end, the technology that Sonos pioneered sure has been adopted in ways by both Google and Amazon.

We’ll keep you updated.

  • UPDATE JUNE 12, 2020: Google has now countersued Sonos, saying that the speaker company is infringing on five of Google’s patents. Those patents relate to mesh networking, echo cancellation, DRM, content notifications, and personalized search. Google also noted as a part of its lawsuit that a portion of the issue here is that it has offered Sonos “significant assistance in designing, implementing, and testing” over the years for its own products, yet Sonos fired this all up with a lawsuit against them. I don’t think this situation will be over any time soon. (via The Verge)

// New York Times | Bloomberg Law



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