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Google Widens Sonos Patent War With Two New Lawsuits

The two companies – former partners – have been fighting in court for years over audio technology.

Google is firing back at Sonos in their ongoing legal war over speaker technology, filing two new patent infringement lawsuits that claim the smaller company stole its core “magic” from Google innovations.

Eight months after Sonos won a ruling that Google Home speakers and other products infringed its intellectual property, Google lodged its own accusations of theft – claiming Google tech was “fundamental” to key aspects of many Sonos products.

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“Sonos acknowledges that for its products, ‘the real magic is in the software,’ and not in the ‘look and sound’ of its speakers,” Google’s lawyers wrote. “This software ‘magic’ uses patented Google technology, and Google brings this case to defend that technology from Sonos’s infringement.”

In a statement, a spokesman for Google said the new lawsuits were merely a response to litigation sparked by Sonos: “Rather than compete on the basis of innovation and product quality, Sonos has decided to compete in the courtroom, and started an aggressive and misleading campaign against our products, at the expense of our shared customers,” José Castañeda said. “We prefer innovation to litigation but their actions leave us no choice but to defend our technology and challenge Sonos’s clear, continued infringement of our patents.”

In a response, Sonos chief legal officer Eddie Lazarus called Google’s new lawsuits “an intimidation tactic designed to retaliate against Sonos for speaking out against Google’s monopolistic practices.” Rather than simply pay for the patents it had infringed, Lazarus said, Google was trying to “grind down a smaller competitor” with litigation, but “will not succeed.”

In the new cases filed Monday, Google accused Sonos of infringing seven different patents covering an array of specific technological innovations. For instance, Google took aim at a new voice assistant featured launched by Sonos, claiming it infringed Google patents for “improvements to the efficiency, reliability, and durability of voice-controlled and battery-powered devices.”

“Sonos has recently introduced its Sonos Voice Control feature to control its products in a power-efficient manner through the use of ‘hotwords,’ and to manage battery charging of its products, using technologies invented by Google,” the company’s lawyers wrote.

Sonos first sued Google in January 2020, claiming the bigger company had stolen its technology when the two companies partnered earlier in the decade. Sonos said its technology had been used in the Google Home, Chromecast Audio, Pixel phones and other products, and that Google had then “flooded the market” with its cheaper competing gear.

Since then, the battle has widened. Sonos has filed two more cases, including one at the U.S. International Trade Commission, a court-like federal agency that can ban the import of goods if it decides they infringe patents. And before Monday’s new cases, Google had already filed an infringement lawsuit of its own in late 2020.

“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,” Google wrote at the time. “While Google rarely sues other companies for patent infringement, it must assert its intellectual property rights here.”

In January, the USITC ruled that a number of Google products had infringed several of Sonos’ patents. The agency said Google could keep importing them, but only if it used court-approved redesigned versions that omitted some features to avoid the Sonos patents.