California-based American consumer electronics company Sonos has filed two separate lawsuits against Google before two US federal courts for allegedly copying its wireless speaker design. The company is seeking to get the International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban Google products like laptops, phones, and speakers. According to a report first carried by The New York Times, Sonos filed two lawsuits covering five patents against Google, claiming that “Google stole its multi-room speaker technology after getting access to it through a 2013 partnership”. In 2013, Sonos thought it had secured a record deal when Google agreed to design its Google Play Music service to work easily with Sonos’s home speakers. For the project, Sonos handed over the effective blueprints to its speakers. Sonos executives hinted that the deal felt like a harmless move, especially as Google was just an internet company then and didn’t make speakers.
According to the lawsuit, Google reportedly used patented technology in its now-discontinued Chromecast Audio device but used it in the Google Home lineup of smart speakers and the Pixel phones.
Google said in a statement to The Verge that “Google’s technology was developed independently by Google – it was not copied from Sonos. We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously”.
Sonos, the maker of high-end wireless speakers, also claimed that Google “subsidized its own products to sell them at a cheaper price while using them to extract more data from buyers”.
Patrick Spence, Sonos CEO said that “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 disclosed that it started warning Google about patent infringement since 2016, shortly after the first Google Home launched. But all warnings fell on deaf ears.
Sonos also claimed that Amazon too violated its patents with the Echo device family, but has decided to make its case “one by one”.
It will be interesting to see how this lays out in court as the outcome with heavily influence the budding smart speaker industry.