According to the New York Times speaker manufacturer Sonos are suing Google over the apparent theft of technology resulting from a 2013 collaboration between Google and Sonos around Google Play Music. Sonos is claiming that Google reviewed their speaker designs and then used those to create their own Home lines of smart speakers.
Sonos is claiming that they have tried to work out a solution with Google, aka some sort of license deal we would imagine, but apparently Google has been unwilling to reach an agreement. Sonos CEO Patrick Spence had this to say “Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology. 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 solution. We’re left with no choice but to litigate.”
A Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda commented “we are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith. We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously.”
If these accusations are true and Google developed their technology after seeing the Sonos patents, which they acquired to jointly develop a different product, this does not look good for Google. OF course patent battles are all too common in the tech world, and holding a patent does not necessarily mean that Google infringed or copied it.
Either way the optics on this is not good as Google is becoming more reliant on third party integrations for their Assistant ecosystem to grow and compete against the larger and more popular Amazon Alexa. Having a third party partner sue them is definitely not how Google wants their relationships with partners to work. It is unclear how the lawsuit will affect their relationship going forwards — will Sonos go back to not allowing Google Assistant on their speakers?