Once Friends, Google and Sonos Are Now Suing Each Other

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo
Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

Google, bored of constantly duking it out with Apple and Amazon, is now suing Sonos — though, to be fair, Sonos did sue Google first.

Google filed its countersuit in the Northern District of California on Thursday, alleging that Sonos infringed on five of the company’s patents covering networking and audio personalisation. But, basically, the search company is just real mad that Sonos took the disagreement to court rather than continue to discuss a resolution in private.

Sonos sued Google back in January, claiming that the company infringed on its speaker patents and bullied Sonos into sharing confidential product roadmaps while the two worked together to integrate Google Play Music and then Google Assistant with Sonos speakers. At the time of their partnership, Google didn’t make smart speakers. Now it does — and they cost far less than a Sonos setup. Sonos CEO Patrick Spence told Gizmodo at the time that “despite our repeated & 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 in the interest of protecting our inventions, our customers, and the spirit of innovation that’s defined Sonos from the beginning.”

The Google countersuit alleges that Sonos needed the company’s resources to integrate its voice assistant with its speakers, including hours of work from Google employees. But Google’s not mad about it! It’s just wondering why Sonos isn’t more grateful.

“Google is proud of its more than five-year partnership with Sonos, and has worked constructively with Sonos to make the companies’ products work seamlessly by building special integrations for Sonos,” the complaint, first reported by the Verge, reads. “For instance, when Google rolled out the ability to set a Sonos speaker as the default option for Google Assistant, it was the first time Google had done that for any partner company.”

“Sonos has made false claims about the companies’ shared work and Google’s technology in the lawsuits that Sonos filed against Google earlier this year,” the complaint continues. “While Google rarely sues other companies for patent infringement, it must assert its intellectual property rights here.”

Google claims that Sonos is using “patented Google innovations in search, software, networking, audio processing, and digital media management and streaming” in both its software, including its rebooted app and the newly launched Sonos Radio service and its lineup of speakers, without licensing those patents.

“As we saw in the past with Eero, and have seen most recently with Zoom, Google seems to have no shame in copying the innovations of smaller American companies in their attempts to extend their search and advertising monopolies into new categories,” Spence told the Verge. “We’re mostly sad to see a once innovative company that started with the mission of ‘Do No Evil’ avoid addressing the fact they’ve infringed on our inventions, and have instead turned to strong arm tactics that the robber barons of old would have applauded.”

I’m not entirely sure which company has the edge here, but damn.

Spence also believes that Amazon ripped off Sonos in much the same way — by working with the company to integrate its Alexa voice assistant and then infringing on its audio patents to develop its own line of smart speakers. But Sonos didn’t have the resources to take both companies to court simultaneously — that looks like a wise decision now that it appears Google isn’t gonna back down.