Speaker Maker Accuses Google of Stealing Audio Technology

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Smart speaker company Sonos sued Google in federal court Tuesday, accusing the Silicon Valley giant of intentionally infringing on its designs for web-connected speakers years after the two companies collaborated on music streaming plans.

Sonos claims a pioneering role in establishing technology in the early 2000s that allows multiple wireless speakers to collectively stream sounds seamlessly.

The Google logo at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Before that technology, multiple passive speakers were connected by wires to a central receiver that distributed sound.

In 2013, Sonos struck a deal with Google that would see the two companies collaborate on designs to integrate Google Play Music with Sonos’ wireless speaker platform.

But just two years later, Google infringed on at least five of Sonos’ patents for speaker designs by launching its own wireless speaker product called Chromecast Audio, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles federal court.

“Since 2015, Google’s misappropriation of Sonos’s patented technology has only proliferated, as Google has expanded its wireless multi-room audio system to more than a dozen different infringing products, including, for example, the Google Home Mini, Google Home, Google Home Max, and Pixel phones, tablets, and laptops,” attorneys for Sonos wrote in the 96-page complaint.

The tech giant’s subsequent launch of the Google Home app and Google Home Max were seen as a “direct attack” on Sonos’ patent, according to the complaint.

“This patented technology includes, for example, Sonos’s patented technology for setting up a playback device on a wireless local area network, adjusting group volume of playback devices, and synchronizing playback of audio within groups of playback devices,” the lawsuit states.

Google has only ramped up production of its wireless speakers and flooded the market with its products despite repeated attempts by Sonos to call out the infringing action, according to the lawsuit.

Sonos, represented by Alyssa Caridis of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, seeks an unspecified amount of damages for the alleged patent infringement and a court order halting U.S. sales of any infringing Google speakers, computers or phones.

A Google spokesperson said Tuesday in a statement to Courthouse News that the lawsuit is upsetting given Sonos’ options for alternative resolution of the dispute.

“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,” the spokesperson said. “We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously.”

Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said in his own statement that Google has been an important partner over the years but that the tech giant “has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology in creating its audio products.”

“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,” Spence said. “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.”

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