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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Round two begins as Google strikes back

The saga continues this week, as Google has just filed a new lawsuit against Sonos just months after an unfortunate ruling that saw Sonos win and force Google to disable or break features for many of its products.

Google’s new Sonos lawsuit targets hotword detection

Google confirmed to The Verge today that it has filed two new lawsuits against Sonos that allege the speaker company is infringing on Google’s patents for smart speakers and voice control tech. Seven patents are in question here, and the bulk of what Google is going after relates to hotword detection.

One of the two lawsuits goes after general hotword detection and support for wireless charging. Sonos has supported both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa in its products over the years, as well as its own voice assistant in recent months. The brand also supports wireless charging in the Sonos Roam speaker, which also includes Google Assistant support.

The other lawsuit goes after hotword detection when there are multiple smart speakers in a group, and how the group determines which speaker should answer the user’s command.

In a statement, Google explains that these lawsuits against Sonos have been filed to “defend our technology and challenge Sonos’s clear, continued infringement of our patents,” somewhat mirroring sentiments from Sonos when the speaker company originally went after Google. A Google spokesperson also points out that Sonos “started an aggressive and misleading campaign against [Google’s] products, at the expense of our shared customers.”

The pair of lawsuits by Google against Sonos have been filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of California, but the company further plans to file with the US International Trade Commission “in the coming days” which seeks to impose an import ban on Sonos products – Sonos attempted the same for Google’s speakers, TV devices, and even Pixel smartphones.

Sonos’ victory led to Google breaking its own products

Prior to this, Sonos pulled off a victory in one of its lawsuits against Google early this year. The US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Google had infringed on Sonos’ patents, but allowed changes on Google’s part to allow the company to avoid an import ban.

As a result, though, Google was left to either pay Sonos, which it refused, or partially break its own products. Several months later, now that the dust has settled, users still regularly see the effects of the loss within Google’s products. A few examples include:

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