Is January a slow news month? Not if Sonos’ legal team has anything to do with it. The company is suing Google alleging infringement of five patents, and as the New York Times explained, is seeking financial damages but also a ban on the sale of Google’s smart speakers, smartphones AND laptops in the US. What’s more, Sonos is also targeting its ire at Amazon but (per the article) “decided to sue only Google because they couldn’t risk battling two tech giants in court at once”.
The NYT explains the long road that has taken the companies to this point, including Sonos’ partnerships with Google and Amazon that involved sharing details of its technology and upcoming hardware, and its belief now that they may have infringed around 100 of its patents, even if only five are cited in the Google lawsuit. “Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology. Despite our repeated and extensive efforts over the last few years, Google has not shown any willingness to work with us on a mutually beneficial solution. We’re left with no choice but to litigate,” said Sonos CEO Patrick Spence.
Both Google and Amazon have responded with their own statements. “We are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith. We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously,” was Google’s spokesperson’s statement. Amazon is flatly denying the claims, meanwhile. “The Echo family of devices and our multiroom music technology were developed independently by Amazon,” said its spokesperson.
This dispute is about more than just alleged patent infringement, though. It’s the latest battle that raises important questions about the competition between the biggest technology companies – and the impact on smaller firms trying to work with several of them. Spotify, for one, will be poring over the details of Sonos’ complaint, including its claims that Google and Amazon hampered its strategy of trying to support multiple voice assistants in the same smart speaker. Those are claims that politicians and regulators in the US (and beyond) will be keen to hear more about.