UPDATED 14:28 EDT / JUNE 12 2020


Google sues smart speaker maker Sonos in escalating legal feud

Google LLC on Thursday filed a patent infringement lawsuit against smart speaker maker Sonos Inc., five months after it likewise sued Google for infringing its patents.

Publicly traded Sonos sells high-end smart speakers and audio accessories that provide voice control features through integration with popular artificial intelligence assistants. Google Assistant is one of the services the company’s devices support. The firms first partnered to integrate their products in 2013.

In January, Sonos filed suit against Google in the Los Angeles Federal District Court, accusing the search giant of abusing their technical collaboration to steal its intellectual property. The speaker maker charges that Google asked it to share diagrams detailing several features of its speakers as part of the partnership. A few years later, Google launched a product called Chromecast Audio that Sonos alleges used its technology under the hood.

Sonos has also accused the search giant of illicitly using its patents in a range of other products, including laptops, phones and smart speakers. The company has asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to impose a sales ban on the devices.

In its lawsuit this week, Google claims that Sonos infringed upon five of its own patents. The technologies they cover focus on music search, ambient noise and echo control, digital content rights management and wireless networking. One of Sonos speakers’ flagship features is that they can be wirelessly linked over a Wi-Fi network to play music in sync. 

“Sonos has made false claims about the companies’ shared work and Google’s technology in the lawsuits that Sonos filed against Google earlier this year,” the search giant stated in the lawsuit. “While Google rarely sues other companies for patent infringement, it must assert its intellectual property rights here.”

A spokesperson added in a statement that “we are reluctantly defending ourselves by asserting our patent rights. While we look to resolve our dispute, we will continue to ensure our shared customers have the best experience using our products.”

Sonos Chief Executive Officer Patrick Spence issued a statement of his own to The Verge, saying that “instead of simply addressing the merits of our case, and paying us what we’re owed, Google has chosen to use their size and breadth to try and find areas in which they can retaliate. We look forward to winning our original case, and winning this newly filed retaliatory case as well.”

The legal dispute between Google and Sonos holds particular significance because of the sales ban Sonos is seeking on some Google products, most notably its smart speaker line. Google is the second-largest player in the U.S. smart speaker segment behind Amazon.com Inc., with an estimated 31% market share. The high stakes involved in the lawsuit mean it will likely be closely followed by the consumer electronics industry. 

Photo: Google

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