10 votes

Sonos, Squeezed by the Tech Giants, Sues Google

2 comments

  1. patience_limited
    Link
    As much as we like to complain about intellectual property law, it's supposed to reward genuine innovators and inventors. And yet, in this case, it appears that Google and Amazon have accrued the...

    The evolving relationship between Sonos and the tech giants reflects an increasingly common complaint in the corporate world: As the biggest tech companies have become essential to reach customers and build businesses, they have exploited that leverage over smaller companies to steal their ideas and their customers.

    After mostly keeping those grievances private for years because they feared retaliation, many smaller companies are now speaking out, emboldened in an age of growing scrutiny of America’s largest tech firms.
    ...
    When Sonos teamed up with Google in 2013, it gave Google engineers detailed diagrams on how its speakers interacted wirelessly with one another. At the time, Google was not a competitor.

    Two years later, Google released a small device that could turn an old speaker into a wireless one, much like Sonos’s original product. A year after that, Google released its own wireless speaker, the Google Home. The device, marketed around Google’s talking virtual assistant, quickly began outselling Sonos’s offerings.

    Sonos bought the Google devices and used a technique called packet sniffing that monitored how the speakers were communicating. They discovered that Google’s devices used Sonos’s approach for solving a variety of technological challenges. Sonos executives said they had found that Amazon’s Echo speakers also copied Sonos technology.

    As much as we like to complain about intellectual property law, it's supposed to reward genuine innovators and inventors.

    And yet, in this case, it appears that Google and Amazon have accrued the market power to ignore paying royalties or otherwise granting the competitive advantage that Sonos earned. Google's claim that it independently invented the apparently stolen wireless mesh technology doesn't preempt Sonos' patent rights.

    Both Google and Amazon have competitively disadvantaged Sonos by demanding inside technical details in exchange for use of their voice assistants, and then releasing their own speakers at a far lower price.

    As The Verge notes, the lawsuit announcement was timed to coincide with the opening of CES 2020, and other small companies are chiming in about their fraught relationships with Big Tech.

    7 votes
  2. rkcr
    Link
    Some of the patents look like the garbage that somehow gets approved for software companies. For example, "method and apparatus for adjusting volume levels in a multi-zone system" is just a volume...

    Some of the patents look like the garbage that somehow gets approved for software companies. For example, "method and apparatus for adjusting volume levels in a multi-zone system" is just a volume controller with multiple knobs, and "multi-channel pairing in a media system" looks like the ability to pair more than one speaker with software.

    I wonder how well this will hold up in court; some of the patents might have merit.

    4 votes