Google Countersues Sonos to ‘Assert IP Rights’ in Escalating Patent Battle

Google sues Sonos
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Google sues Sonos
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Photo Credit: Mitchell Luo

Google is now countersuing Sonos, alleging patent infringement of five Google-owned patents.

The suit follows Sonos’ patent lawsuit against Google – first filed back in January. Sonos filed two lawsuits covering five patents on its wireless speaker design.

In the lawsuits, Sonos seeks a ban on Google laptops, phones, and speakers in the United States, an aggressive demand. Sonos’ initial lawsuit alleges that Google stole its multi-room speaker technology after receiving access to it in 2013.

The original Sonos/Google partnership allowed Sonos speakers to support Google Play Music.

Sonos says Google stole patented tech to develop its Chromecast audio device. Sonos further alleges the technology is still in use, powering the Google Home suite of devices. The speaker manufacturer also argues that Google undercuts its products to claim market share and collect data from its listeners.

Sonos also claims that it warned Google about the patent infringement several times – first starting in 2016. That’s when Google announced its Google Home smart speaker for the first time. The Google Home Max and Google Home Mini soon followed – each with a patent infringement warning from Sonos.

But that aggressive legal action could be seriously backfiring. Google is now countersuing Sonos for infringing five Google patents covering mesh networking, echo cancellation, DRM, content notifications, and personalized search.

“While Google rarely sues other companies for patent infringement, it must assert its intellectual property rights here,” the company says in the countersuit. Google says the work it has done to offer Google music services and voice assistant tech to Sonos is significant.

“This effort again involved substantial Google engineering resources, including significant months of employee work time,” the lawsuit reads. “We are disappointed that Sonos has made false claims about our work together and technology,” Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesperson, told The Verge.

Earlier this year, Sonos CEO Patrick Spence testified before an antitrust committee. During that testimony, Spence says Google blocked the company from supporting both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Spence alleges that Google was deliberately using patented technology in what he called “efficient infringement.” That is, Google bets the cost of a patent lawsuit would dwarf the gains from such a lawsuit.