Google has filed a new patent infringement lawsuit against Sonos, alleging the violation of four patents. Most of the claims focus on voice assistant functionality; Google alleges that Sonos began violating its patents when Sonos introduced its own voice assistant this summer.
“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,” Google spokesperson José Castañeda said in a statement shared with Protocol. “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.”
Sonos chief legal officer Eddie Lazarus called the lawsuit an intimidation tactic. "Google previously sued us all over the world and Sonos has prevailed in every decided case. By contrast, the courts have repeatedly validated Sonos’ claims that Google is infringing its core patented smart speaker technology," Lazarus said in a statement shared with Protocol. "Google’s new lawsuits are an intimidation tactic designed to retaliate against Sonos for speaking out against Google’s monopolistic practices, avoid paying Sonos a fair royalty for the roughly 200 patents it is currently infringing, and grind down a smaller competitor whose innovations it has misappropriated. It will not succeed."
This new lawsuit is just the latest legal spat between the two companies. Sonos first sued Google in early 2020 over the alleged violation of smart speaker patents. Google countersued Sonos, and Sonos also filed a case with the International Trade Commission.
Sonos won the ITC case in January, forcing Google to disable some functionality of its smart speakers and other devices. However, Sonos has since alleged that Google’s steps weren’t going far enough and that the company was still in violation of the ITC ruling.
Some Google device owners have also faced more significant disruption, with Google acknowledging in a recent support article that as a result of the changes it's had to make, owners of Pixel phones may be unable to set up older Chromecast devices for the time being. “Unfortunately, because of an interruption caused by Sonos, a small number of you using Pixel phones in the US may be unable to set up devices at this time," the company wrote in June. "We are hopeful that this is a temporary decision that only impacts a small number of you.”
With its new lawsuit, Google is signaling that it wants to resolve these kinds of disputes in court, rather than through licensing negotiations.
Updated Aug. 8 at 11:54 a.m. PDT: This article was updated with a statement from Sonos chief legal officer Eddie Lazarus.