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Sonos' lawsuit versus Google will get congressional attention

Matthew McNulty

The lawsuits between audio company Sonos and Google will likely get a public airing next week when Sonos CEO Patrick Spence will testify before a House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee on the subject of antitrust and big tech.

Word of the hearing, which will be held at the University of Colorado at Boulder on Friday, Jan. 17th, comes just one day after the New York Times reported that Sonos in pursuing a partnership with Google, the search and tech behemoth stole Sonos' multiroom speaker technology.  Sonos executives said that Google then undermined Sonos devices by coming out with their own wireless speakers seemingly based off Sonos' blueprint designs, according to the Times report.

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As a part of the lawsuits, Sonos called for financial damages as well as a ban on the sale of Google's speakers, smartphones and laptops in the United States.

For its part, Google has denied stealing Sonos' wireless speaker patents in a statement obtained by The Verge : "Over the years, we have had numerous ongoing conversations with Sonos about both companies IP rights and we are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith. Google's technology was developed independently by Google - it was not copied from Sonos. We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously."

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The "good faith negotiations" Google claimed to have had with Sonos goes back until at least 2016, with the audio tech company informing Google it was infringing on their patents four separate times throughout that four year period.

Sonos complaints detail the increasing reliance on both Google and Amazon, both of which advertised Sonos' speakers on their websites, with both tech giants using their formidable power in the tech industry to take advantage of the much-smaller Sonos.

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Amazon vice president Dave Limp told The Verge his company is a longtime partner of Sonos and that he feels "good about the partnership . . . .I would say our job is to make partners successful. And if you called Patrick right now, I would hope he would tell you that our partnership is healthy."

The House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust investigation into big tech companies has been underway since last  June, under Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI). The goal has been to hear from witnesses from some of the country’s largest tech firms as well as the companies' critics to gauge if or how lawmakers should step in on what some see as monopolistic practices.

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo), whose district includes Boulder, is the subcommittee Vice-Chair and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who represents Colorado's 4th Congressional District, also sits on the committee.

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