A San Francisco judge has issued a mixed ruling that opens the door for a contentious smart speaker patent fight to go to trial. The ruling in favor of Sonos will force Google to face a lawsuit from the company that specializes in wireless audio technology and could also increase pressure on tech giants to treat smaller competitors fairly.
The battle began in 2020 when Sonos sued Google for alleged patent infringement, accusing the company of stealing its patented multiroom audio technology and using it in products like Google Home and Chromecast Audio. In the suit, Sonos said its work in 2013 integrating Google Play Music into Sonos products gave Google a “wide aperture through which to view and understand Sonos’ proprietary technology.”
Two years later, Google introduced the Google Home product line and Chromecast Audio, which provided multiroom audio streaming with voice control. Sonos claims that Google’s use of its technology was willful and intentional, and it continued to copy the multiroom audio features as it expanded the Google Home, Google Home Mini, Chromecast Audio, Nest line of smart speakers and gadgets, and Pixel phones, tablets and laptops. Sonos also claims that Google’s actions harmed its Business and sought to unfairly compete with Sonos by selling lower-quality devices it subsidized with revenue from search advertising.
In its latest lawsuit, Sonos says it is seeking unspecified damages from Google and a ban on sales of Google’s smart speakers, phones, and tablets in the United States. A hearing in the case is scheduled for May 8.
Sonos will face off against Amazon and Apple, another smart-home electronics giant that has been a significant competitor in the wireless audio market. Last year, Sonos won a limited import ban on some Google devices from the U.S. International Trade Commission, and it filed a complaint against Google’s Pixel phone, tablet, and laptop lineup at the ITC.
A spokesperson for Google disputed Sonos’s claims, saying the company has been accused of infringing on seven of its intellectual property rights and plans to defend itself vigorously. A Google spokesperson also told CNN Business that the ITC case was separate from the district court complaint. Sonos’s lawsuit is the latest in a series of high-profile patent disputes between tech companies over voice assistants and other technologies that have exploded into the home and on smartphones. The battle between Sonos and Google will have ramifications for how integrators design their custom home theater systems. It could also influence what kinds of intelligent devices consumers will buy. Read More