This morning, Sonos filed lawsuits against Google in two federal courts, asserting that the tech giant has infringed on five of its patents. The suits were filed in Federal District Court in L.A. and in the United States International Trade Commission. Sonos has similar complaints against Amazon, though the company has chosen not to file any litigation against the latter. The decision was reportedly made because Sonos knew it couldn’t handle suing both companies at once.
“Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology,” said Sonos CEO Patrick Spence. “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 situation.”
Google and Amazon are making tons of money off Sonos’ tech — Because Google and Amazon both work off business models that focus on selling massive amounts of technology at cheap prices, they’ve been able to ship millions more speakers than Sonos. Amazon sold 10.5 million speakers in Q3 of last year alone; Google sold six million in the same time frame. Meanwhile, Sonos sold just 6.1 million speakers. These numbers prove it: Amazon and Google have effectively cornered the smart speaker market, and they’ve done so with tech that Sonos developed.
A fine line between reliance and exploitation — Google and Sonos have been working in tandem for many years. Back in 2013, Sonos trusted Google with the secrets of its speakers’ inner workings, willingly giving the company its speaker schematics so Google could design a music service with Sonos in mind. At the time, Google didn’t make any speakers at all, so the partnership seemed sound.
Sonos has known for a while that Google stole its tech — Google released the Google Home in 2016 and changed the relationship between the two companies for good. Sonos bought the Google Home upon its launch and used packet sniffing to analyze communications between the wireless speakers. Sure enough, the company found that Google’s devices were using the same approach as Sonos to overcome technological challenges. The same is true of Amazon’s Echo speakers.
Google has been told many times about the infringement — Sonos has protested loudly to Google about this over the past few years with little to no response. Instead of making reparations, Google forged ahead with its products, stolen tech and all. Sonos has even created proposed business models for Google to pay licensing fees, which Google did not accept. At this point, Sonos estimates that Google has infringed on more than 100 of its patents.