Speaker maker Sonos was one of the progenitors of the home wireless speaker. In 2013, they thought they’d won big when Google agreed to design its music streaming service, Google Play Music, to easily work with Sonos’ home speakers. In doing so, they handed the blueprints for their speakers over to Google.
They’re now suing the tech giant, accusing them of stealing their tech and using it for their own wireless home speakers. They’ve launched a suit against Google in two US federal court systems. Sonos wants both financial damages and a ban on the sale of Google’s infringing speakers, smartphones and laptops in the United States. The company claims that Google has infringed on five of its patents, including the all-important technology that allows the wireless speakers to connect to each other with synchronised play.
Sonos alleges that Google first used the multi-room tech in its defunct Chromecast Audio device, but then continued to use it in its Google Home smart speakers and Pixel devices. Says the suit:
“As early as 2013, Google gained knowledge of Sonos’s patented multi-room technology through a partnership with Sonos to integrate Google Play Music into the Sonos platform. However, just two years later in 2015, Google began willfully infringing Sonos’s patents when it launched its first wireless multi-room audio product – Chromecast Audio. 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…”
Sonos also claims that Google used its cash reserves to subsidise its own products, while using the tech to harvest data from those who bought them. Given how pervasive Google’s systems are on the internet, that’s not remotely a stretch.
“Google is an important partner with whom we have collaborated successfully for years, including bringing the Google Assistant to the Sonos platform last year. However, Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology in creating its audio products,” Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said to The Verge. “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.”
The list of Google products that run on apparently appropriated tech also includes the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra; the Nest Mini, Nest Hub, Nest Hub Max, and Nest Wifi Point; and the Pixel phones, Pixel Slate tablet, and Google’s Pixelbook laptop.
Jose Castaneda, speaking on behalf of Google, said that the companies had been in conversation for years about IP and rights, and that “we are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith,” adding that the tech company “dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously.”
Interestingly, Sonos levies the same claims against Amazon and its home speakers but decided it doesn’t have the resources to tackle both companies in court. Amazon also disputes the claims.
“The Echo family of devices and our multiroom music technology were developed independently by Amazon,” says spokesperson Natalie Hereth.
Last Updated: January 8, 2020