Sonos claims Google and Amazon stole its smart speaker tech

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Sonos Move
Sonos was the first to make great smart speakers. Now everyone's copying.
Photo: Sonos

Sonos, the smart speaker company that (usually) plays nice with pretty much every other tech company, is fighting back against Google and Amazon for allegedly stealing some of its secret sauce.

Two lawsuits were filed by Sonos this week against Google that accuses the search engine giant of infringing on five of its patents. Sonos claims Amazon is guilty of the same thing but the company decided to only sue Google because it can’t take on two tech giants at once.

As part of its lawsuits against Google, Sonos is seeking a sales ban on Google’s smart speakers, smartphones and laptops sold in the US. The company says it tried to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with Google out of court but the company refused.

Sonos vs. Big Tech

Google’s alleged technology theft dates back to 2013 when the company worked with Sonos to make Google Play Music work natively on Sonos speakers. At the time, Google didn’t make smart speakers so Sonos gave the company practically unrestricted access to the blueprints to its tech. That naive move cost Sonos dearly when Google decided to turn around and make its own smart speakers a few years later.

According to the New York Times, Sonos demanded that Google license its technology. Google pushed back by making stricter rules for using Google Assistant. The search engine giant also demanded Sonos tell Google about new speakers and all their details at least six months before they launch.

Stealing from Sonos

Once Google launched its Google Home smart speakers the team at Sonos did some investigating. They found that Google and Amazon smart speakers copied technology from Sonos to solve various technical challenges. In August 2016, Sonos informed Google it was infringing but Google didn’t really respond.

Instead of launching litigation against the companies immediately, Sonos decided to try to reach a resolution. Sonos advertises its speakers through Google and sells them on Amazon. Any bad blood between the companies could have serious business ramifications for the small speaker company. Sonos only has about 1,500 employees and sells $1 billion of speakers a year.

“Google is an important partner with whom we have collaborated successfully for years, including bringing the Google Assistant to the Sonos platform last year. However, Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology in creating its audio products,” Sonos CEO Patrick Spence told The Verge. “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.”