Sonos sues as Google audio tech remains all too familiar

Chris Burns - Sep 29, 2020, 2:28pm CDT
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Sonos sues as Google audio tech remains all too familiar

Sonos filed a lawsuit against Google this week to further claims of patent infringement with smart speaker products. Sonos claims that a team-up between the companies with the launch of Google Play Music resulted in Google effectively copying Sonos technology for use in smart speakers they’d release years later. This claim comes just before Google’s next major event in which the company is expected to reveal one more smart speaker and/or smart audio product that Sonos expects will continue what they consider the company’s “disregard for IP.”

The key to this situation seems to be the team-up between companies starting in late 2011. That’s when Sonos started working with Google to integrate the then-new Google Play Music service into their speaker ecosystem. “As a result, Google Play Music launched on the Sonos platform in 2014,” says the legal document released today.

As it was mentioned in the first claim filed by Sonos with the United States International Trade Comission (ITC)** earlier this year, Sonos allowed Google to view and work with key details of the tech that allows Sonos to be a uniquely powerful and reliable multi-room speaker ecosystem.

It was “just eighteen months later, in 2015, Google began willfully infringing Sonos’s patents.” That was when Google released Chromecast Audio for the first time. Since then, Sonos suggests a large number of products have infringed or continue to infringe upon Sonos’s patents. Those devices include:

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• Chromecast
• Chromecast Ultra
• Chromecast Audio
• Chromecast with Google TV
• Home Mini
• Nest Mini
• Google Home
• Google Home Max
• Google Home Hub
• Nest Hub
• Nest Hub Max
• Nest Audio
• Nest Wifi Point

**The first action taken by Sonos for this situation this year was the January 2020 complaint filed with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC). At that time, the ITC launched an investigation called In re Certain Audio Players and Controllers, Components Thereof, and Products Containing Same, Inv. No. 337-TA-1191. “While the ITC Investigation has been pending,” said the lawsuit filing today, “Google has continued to increase its infringement.”

“In the face of Google’s unrelenting infringement, Sonos has no choice but to bring this suit,” says the document released this week. “In this action, Sonos asserts patents that are not at issue in the ITC or the related district court action. Sonos is also accusing Google’s Wireless Audio System of infringing different patented features than are at issue in either of those actions.”

Included in this suit are several patents:
1. U.S. Patent No. 9,967,615 “Networked Music Playback”
2. U.S. Patent No. 10,779,033 “Systems And Methods For Networked Music Playback”
3. U.S. Patent No. 9,344,206 “Method And Apparatus For Updating Zone Configurations In A Multi-Zone System”
4. U.S. Patent No. 10,469,966 “Zone Scene Management”
5. U.S. Patent No. 9,219,460 “Audio Settings Based on Environment”

It’ll be interesting to see how Google responds to these claims. It’ll also be interesting to see what’ll happen if Sonos wins the suit – especially when it comes to other companies that seem to be doing some Sonos IP infringing of their own.

The document referenced above was filed for consideration by the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas Waco Division. Sonos, INC., is the plaintiff, Google LLC, is the defendant. The document we’ve viewed was still “COMPLAINT FOR PATENT INFRINGEMENT” with a Jury Trial Demanded.


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