Sonos Sues Google for Allegedly Stealing Its Speaker Technology

Illustration for article titled Sonos Sues Google for Allegedly Stealing Its Speaker Technology
Photo: Jesse Grant (Getty

Accusing the tech giant of “blatantly and knowingly” infringing on its technology patents, smart-speaker maker Sonos on Tuesday filed two lawsuits against Google after years’ of quiet talks between the pair apparently fell through.

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Sonos has filed complaints in the Central District of California and before the United States International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial federal agency, over five patents after reportedly warning Google about the alleged infringements repeatedly. The company is seeking financial recompense and a court order to ban the sales of certain Google devices, including laptops, speakers, and smartphones.

Google told Gizmodo that it disputes the claims and will “vigorously” defend itself in court.

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“Over the years, we have had numerous ongoing conversations with Sonos about both companies’ IP rights and we are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith,” a Google spokesperson said.

Sonos CEO Patrick Spence called Google an “important partner” with whom Sonos has long collaborate successfully, “including bringing the Google Assistant to the Sonos platform last year.” Nevertheless, he alleged, Google has “blatantly and knowingly” copied its patented audio technology.

Sonos, whose wireless speakers predate Google’s by nearly a decade and were a major commercial success, began working to implement various smart assistants developed by other companies around 2016. The company struggled to incorporate Google Assistant for years, but finally got the technologies to pair successfully last summer.

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“Despite our repeated & extensive efforts over the last few years, Google has not shown any willingness to work with us on a mutually beneficial solution,” Spence said via email. “We’re left with no choice but to litigate in the interest of protecting our inventions, our customers, and the spirit of innovation that’s defined Sonos from the beginning.”

The New York Times first reported the lawsuits Tuesday afternoon.

Out of fear of retaliation, Sonos largely kept its grievances private, it says. Spence and other Sonos executives allegedly feared that Google would bury its product in search results. The Times reports that as Sonos worked to implement Google Assistant across its line of speaker products, Google pushed Sonos—a company with whom it directly competes—to reveal confidential details about unreleased products.

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Sonos, whose multi-room smart speakers also work with Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri, said it also believes that Amazon—on whose marketplace Sonos speakers are also sold—likewise ripped off its audio patents. The company determined, however, that it couldn’t risk (in the Times’ words) “battling two tech giants in court at once.”

Amazon told Gizmodo that its multi-room music technology—which rolled out last year following Google’s first multi-room speakers in 2017—was developed independently by its own team.

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“Our focus is on building the best possible experience for our customers and partners building with Alexa. In fact, The Alexa flywheel is helping to generate billions of dollars for the Alexa developer and device maker community,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

Senior Reporter, Privacy & Security

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DISCUSSION

Their real worry is that Google isn’t going to charge the same exorbitant price for these sub par audio systems.