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Sonos Sue claiming The New Denon Heos Is A Rip Off, Brand Marketing Also Challenged

Sonos Sue claiming The New Denon Heos Is A Rip Off, Brand Marketing Also Challenged

The global research and development team for the new  Denon Heos which is distributed by Melbourne based Qualifi  is based in North Sydney.

Co-founder and general counsel for Sonos Craig Shelburn claims that the Denon Heos range is  violating four patents owned by Sonos relating to wireless audio products, prompting Sonos to file a lawsuit in its incorporation state, Delaware, against Denon’s parent company D&M Holdings.

“For anyone who has looked at Denon’s Heos product line, you will recognise many of the same elements found in Sonos products, with little or no effort to differentiate features or functionality,” claims Shelburn. He has also claimed that Denon has D+M Holdings has copied “liberally” from the Sonos brand and messaging, claiming “in some cases they have just copied word for word,” Shelburn quotes a review of the speakers, quoting “If you’re familiar with the Sonos product line, you’ll get a serious case of deja-vu looking at the Heos offering.” 

In the blog post, Shelburn warns that the company is not a fan of resolving disputes in courts, but suggests “we will offer to sit down with Denon, explain our views and give them time to modify their products. 

We are not asking for a royalty or other license fee – we just want Denon to build an experience that isn’t copying ours.” Unusually, the post also includes a link to the 258-page filing, which consists of the 20 page complaint and 148 pages of evidence, including advertising performed by both companies, comparison of devices, and patents. Of the four patents, three relate to software, while only one is for hardware, namely a specific rocker design Sonos uses on the majority of its products. 

A representative from Denon said that the company is aware of the lawsuit and is “taking it very seriously.” A formal comment is expected within 48 hours, after the company has time to review the complaint.

Denon is hardly the first company to take a run at the wireless home hi-fi market that Sonos pioneeredthye market  back in 2002 and continues to dominate today with JB Hi Fi reporting “record” sales for the popular sound system.

Samsung, Bose, and LG have all brought new products to market that compete directly with Sonos. Yet none of them have created a line of products and accompanying marketing materials that so closely mirror what Sonos has created.

Sonos points out that even minor elements like Denon’s tag line for the Heos products is just too close to be seen as coincidental with their use of “Fill every room with music” coming within a few characters of Sonos’s tagline: “Fill your home with music.”

The filing goes on to discuss the four patents that are allegedly being infringed including: “Multi-Channel Pairing in a Media System,” “Method and Apparatus for Controlling Multimedia Players in a Multi-Zone system,” “Method and Apparatus for Adjusting Volume Levels in a Multi-Zone System,” and “Control Strip for Electronic Appliances.”

Of these patents, the first three relate to Sonos’s software IP (which you can see in the Sonos app for iOS and Android) and the last relates to their hardware IP, specifically the button+rocker design that appears on all Sonos audio hardware components. Visually speaking, it sure looks like Denon sought to borrow directly from this design.

Above: The top panel of the HEOS 3 speaker (top) compared to the schematic in Sonos’s patent for a Control Strip for Electronic Appliances (bottom).

Sonos claims that it isn’t interested in financial gain from this action and are instead using the lawsuit as a stick to bring D&M Holdings to the negotiation table in an attempt to work out a deal.