Sonos accuses Google of stealing wireless speaker secrets in scathing patent lawsuit

By Harrison Weber

For a long time, if you wanted an easy way to pump your house full of music, there was just one company to turn to: Sonos. Then came the smart speaker, and suddenly streaming music across rooms went from costing half a grand to under $100—or free, if you played your cards right.

Google is one of the main forces behind the recent surge of cheapo smart speakers, and on Tuesday the nearly $1 trillion company became the subject of two lawsuits filed by Sonos, the New York Times reports.

Sonos CEO Patrick Spence claims that “Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology” for years. Sonos and Google collaborated in 2013 to add the Play Music service to Sonos speakers, and more recently, the two worked to bring Google’s digital assistant to Sonos speakers, alongside Amazon’s counterpart, Alexa.

“Despite our repeated and extensive efforts over the last few years,” Spence told the Times, “Google has not shown any willingness to work with us on a mutually beneficial solution. We’re left with no choice but to litigate,” he said.

Sonos alleges that Google started lifting its tech in 2015, with the launch of the now-canceled Chromecast Audio streaming dongle. Since then, the lawsuit states, “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 says it’s alerted Google “of its infringement on at least four separate occasions dating back to 2016.”

Sonos is seeking a couple of things in its legal offensive: unspecified financial damages and a ban on a laundry list of Google products sold in the U.S., including speakers and laptops. In comments to the press, a Google spokesperson reportedly said the company intends to challenge Sonos’s claims and is “disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith.”

We reached out to Google for comment and will update if we hear back.

The biggest names in tech have a knack for upending entire businesses—like when Apple smoked Fitbit on smartwatches and Amazon rattled Blue Apron with its own meal kits. No doubt for Sonos, this fight for relevancy must sting all the more because smart speakers still look like something of an overgrown side project for the likes of Google, Apple, and Amazon.

For now, Sonos’s target is Google, but it might also take on Amazon, the Times reports. Since tech giants cast such long shadows over Sonos’s puny $1.71 billion market cap, it’s probably best to take them on one at a time.


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