Google Countersues Sonos for Patent Infringement, Escalating Legal Fight
Google has responded to Sonos’ lawsuit over patent infringement with a countersuit. In the new court filing, Google claims that Sonos is using technology patented by Google without permission, the same claim that Sonos made in its original lawsuit in January.
According to Google’s lawsuit, Sonos is using five of its patents without a licensing deal, including DRM, content notification, content notification, mesh networking, and personalized search features. The counterclaim asserts that Google is only going after Sonos because of the first lawsuit.
“Instead of simply addressing the merits of our case, and paying us what we’re owed, Google has chosen to use their size and breadth to try and find areas in which they can retaliate,” Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said in a statement. We look forward to winning our original case, and this newly filed case as well.”
In the first lawsuit, Sonos alleged that Google’s smart speakers and related products are based on blueprints it shared with Google in 2013 when the companies were working on bringing Google Play Music to Sonos speakers. In particular, Sonos claimed that the ability to sync across multiple rooms in Google’s Chromecast Audio speaker, launched in 2015, was taken from the shared documentation. Sonos asked for a ban on U.S. sales of Google’s speakers, smartphones, and laptops to be part of the ruling. Sonos registered a complaint about Google with the U.S. International Trade Commission at the same time as the lawsuit, taking the argument global.
The legal battle kicked off a larger effort by Sonos to hold the biggest tech companies accountable for what it claimed was a pattern of bullying. Sonos CEO Patrick Spence testified soon after the lawsuit began to the House Antitrust Subcommittee that Google, Amazon, and other pillars of the tech world force smaller companies to limit their potential competition and prevent them from complaining about it. That risk is why Sonos wasn’t also suing Amazon, Spence told the committee.
“[T]he fact that a handful of very large companies are essential partners for pretty much every technology business — and because they are so essential to reach consumers these companies can, and sometimes do, engage in practices that again unfairly harm competitors, restrain innovation, and ultimately harm consumers,” Spence said in his witness statement.
Fighting over patents hasn’t stopped Sonos and Google working together, however. Earlier this year, Sonos speakers became able to serve as the default player for Google Assistant, which Google said in its filing was a unique agreement resulting from the years of working together. The increasingly heated legal fight hasn’t changed how the two companies’ products operate, but the rhetoric at least suggests future partnerships will be tricky to arrange.