Sonos Moves To Gate Crash Google Speaker Launch, With Yet Another Patent Infringment Claim
Hours out from Google launching a new range of voice activated networked speaker’s archrival Sonos had dropped another lawsuit on the big search Company claiming that they have infringed five wireless audio patents across the entire line of Nest and Chromecast products.
Sonos stock climbed on the news that the audio Company is seeking compensation from Google.
The patents in Sonos’ first lawsuit covered the foundations of wireless audio systems: setup, playing in sync, creating stereo pairs. Sonos is particularly confident in those patents because it’s previously sued Denon for infringing them however the two Companies settled weeks out from Sonos being floated
Google is expected to announce a new Chromecast and Nest smart speaker alongside new Pixel phones tonight.
Sonos filed its first patent lawsuits against Google in January in California federal court and with the International Trade Commission; the federal case has been put on hold while the ITC reaches a decision on whether to block Google’s allegedly infringing products from market.
The latest legal action has been filed in Texas — an emerging patent lawsuit hotspot according to the The Verge.
“We think it’s important to show the depth and breadth of Google’s copying,” says Eddie Lazarus, Sonos’ chief legal officer. “We showed them claim charts on 100 patents that we claimed they were infringing, all to no avail.”
Google, of course, says it will fight back; it has countersued Sonos in the initial case. “Sonos has made misleading statements about our history of working together,” says Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda. “Our technology and devices were designed independently. We deny their claims vigorously and will be defending against them.”
Earlier this year CEO Patrick Spence testified to the US House antitrust subcommittee earlier this year about what’s called “efficient infringement” — and this new case reflects how strongly the company thinks it should be curtailed.
“Efficient infringement is a very big problem,” says Lazarus. “That’s why we went to the ITC and now Texas — to shorten the process and get resolution as quickly as possible.” (To be clear, “short” is a relative term in patent law — Lazarus estimates this new case will take two years.)
The patents in the new case are more recent — one of them was issued just two weeks ago, although it covers work started in 2011 — and relate to more modern wireless speaker system features, like controlling streaming music from a secondary device like a phone, automatic speaker EQ, and speaker group management and “zone scene” pre-sets.
Observers claim that many of the recent patents that Sonos has applied for them seem like patents on the basics of smart speaker control — setting the volume on a speaker from your phone, for example — but Lazarus says he’s not worried about Google challenging them.
“If they seek to challenge the patents on obviousness grounds, we believe we will win,” he says.
“We believe that most people involved in wireless home audio today infringe on our patents in one way or the other.” Lazarus says Sonos has presented Amazon with similar patent claims and hopes to resolve them. “We were ahead of our time. These technologies weren’t commonplace when Sonos designed them.”
The big question now is whether Google will stop Sonos having global access to their Google Voice technology, analysts claim this would be a major blow for Sonos particularly in markets like Australia where Google dominates the voice market.