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Wireless Speaker Experts Sonos Suing Google Over Patent Infringement

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Sonos, the smart speaker maker is going after Google, claiming the company stole some of their intellectual property. Sonos said it would go after Amazon as well, but it could only risk taking on one tech giant at the moment.

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The New York Times reports:

On Tuesday, Sonos sued Google in two federal court systems, seeking financial damages and a ban on the sale of Google’s speakers, smartphones and laptops in the United States. Sonos accused Google of infringing on five of its patents, including technology that lets wireless speakers connect and synchronize with one another.

Sonos’s complaints go beyond patents and Google. Its legal action is the culmination of years of growing dependence on both Google and Amazon, which then used their leverage to squeeze the smaller company, Sonos executives said.

Sonos claims that in 2013, Google agreed to design its music service to work with Sonos speakers, leading to Sonos handing over the blueprints to the speakers, because at the time, Google was not in the physical hardware business.

Google has since released a line of home speakers that undercut Sonos' prices. As has Amazon. Both companies denied any wrongdoing and dispute the claims. When Google released their home speakers and Amazon released their Echo devices, the Sonos team started to get suspicious.

Sonos bought the Google devices and used a technique called packet sniffing that monitored how the speakers were communicating. They discovered that Google’s devices used Sonos’s approach for solving a variety of technological challenges. Sonos executives said they found Amazon’s Echo speakers had also copied Sonos technology.

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After warning Google of their patent infringement, Sonos tried to come to a licensing fee agreement with Google but couldn't come to terms.

Sonos is suing in Federal District Court in Los Angeles, as well as the United States International Trade Commission, which The New York Times describes as "a quasi-judicial body that decides trade cases and can block the import of goods that violate patents."

The report notes that Sonos is suing for five patent violations although they are claiming Google and Amazon violated over 100. Sonos did not disclose how much they are seeking in damages.

It should be noted that Sonos speakers currently come with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa integration. The article notes that in the third quarter of 2019, Amazon shipped 10.5 million speakers, Google shipped six million and Sonos shipped 6.1 million.

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