Google and Sonos are now fighting over voice assistant patents

1 month ago 21

Google has sued Sonos, alleging that its new voice assistant violates seven patents related to its own Google Assistant technology, CNET has reported. It's the latest salvo in a long-running smart speaker battle between the companies, with each suing and countersuing the other following a period when they worked together. 

"[Sonos has] started an aggressive and misleading campaign against our products, at the expense of our shared customers," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. 

Sonos' Voice Control assistant arrived in June, letting users give commands with the phrase "Hey Sonos," much like Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. In the complaint, Google said it "worked for years with Sonos engineers on the implementation of voice recognition and voice-activated devices control in Sonos products... even providing its Google Assistant software to Sonos for many years." 

The fight erupted in early 2020 when Sonos sued Google for alleged patent infringement after the companies had collaborated for several years. Sonos claimed that Google gained knowledge of its technology when they worked together and used that information to develop its own smart speaker line. The company filed another suit in September 2020, claiming that Google infringed on five more patents. 

Google countersued, alleging that Sonos was using Google’s search, software, networking, audio processing and other technology without paying a license fee and made "false claims" about their work together

In 2021, the US International Trade Commission ruled that Google infringed on five Sonos patents. That forced Google to change the way its speakers were set up to avoid an import ban. Most of those were related to the way speaker groups are controlled — for instance, users can no longer change the volume of a group of speakers and must adjust them individually instead. 

"Google previously sued us all over the world and Sonos has prevailed in every decided case," Sonos' chief legal officer Eddie Lazarus told CNET. "[The latest lawsuits] are an intimidation tactic designed to retaliate against Sonos for speaking out against Google's monopolistic practices." 

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