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Google hits Sonos with new lawsuit in tech patent clash

Already embroiled in a two-year patent dispute with Sonos over wireless speaker technology, Google is now claiming Sonos is using its wireless charging and voice control innovations without permission.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Google has escalated its two-year legal feud with Sonos over smart speaker technology, claiming its competitor and past partner made false claims about their “shared work” in a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court.

Google, which has been accused of copying Sonos’ design for wireless speakers, contends in a new complaint that Sonos is using Google’s speaker innovations without permission and infringing its patents for wireless charging and voice command features like hot-word detection.

The tech giant says it partnered with Sonos in 2013 to help its home speaker system work with Google Play Music, and in 2016 Sonos again asked for Google's support in getting its speakers to integrate with Google's voice-activated Assistant.

Two years ago, Sonos sued Google in Los Angeles federal court for using that partnership to get a peek at its technology and using it to launch its own smart speaker, Chromecast Audio, and later Google Home.

Now Google claims Sonos took advantage of Google’s largesse in helping Sonos improve its products and used Google’s technology without permission in introducing wireless charging and voice control features for a number of portable speaker products like Sonos Move, Sonos Roam, Sonos Roam SL, Sonos Arc, Sonos Beam, and Sonos One.

“While Google rarely sues other companies for patent infringement, it must assert its intellectual property rights here,” Google says in its complaint.

But this is not the first time Google has asserted its intellectual property rights against its rival. When Sonos sued in 2020, Google immediately fired back with a countersuit that claimed Sonos infringed on a number of its patents, including methods for storing domain information, accessing proceed digital content, and searching for music content. "Sonos is using, without permission, these Google technologies in Sonos’ products to enable multiple commercially desirable features, for example, to allow for easier configuration of and extensions to multi-speaker networks; to facilitate the management and use of multiple
music services with Sonos speakers; to permit playing copy-protected digital media, including Sonos’ new Sonos Radio service; and to allow Sonos to use noise suppression and echo cancellation to obtain accurate audio input," that lawsuit asserted.

Google also filed a counterclaim against Sonos for patent invalidity in 2021, and won a favorable ruling on that front from U.S. District Judge William Alsup last week as to one claim related to Sonos' patent for transferring playback of a song playlist from a smartphone to a speaker.

Tech news website The Verge reported that the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in January 2022 that Google had violated five of Sonos' smart speaker patents, forcing Google to strip some features from its products.

Google seeks treble damages and an injunction in Monday's action.

Press teams for both companies and Google’s attorneys with Quinn Emmanuel Urquhart & Sullivan did not return an email seeking comment Monday.

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