A couple of comments about recent legal activity

  • 29 January 2018
  • 5 replies
  • 385 views

I usually don't expect to come to this site to get a political message, but it was unavoidable, right on the home page. Sonos closed their store in support of protests against the elimination of "net neutrality" rules. As a private company Sonos are entitled to believe and support whatever they want. However, I found this paragraph amusing:

"Without net neutrality policies like the ones that are currently under threat, the idea of a multi-room home sound system that runs off of WiFi—and streams music from dozens of sources—would not have been feasible when we started building it 15 years ago."

Leaving aside the reality that "net neutrality" didn't exist 15 years so, and therefore couldn't have had anything to do with the origination, development and production of Sonos kit, I offer the following:

People who claim to support net neutrality never seem to grasp that multi-tier service has been a way of life since the internet turned commercial, and that tiered service is what drove innovation and ultimately socialized it for the rest of us. Those who remember copper pair dialup service should also remember when ISDN first was offered, and then DSL and T1, and eventually cable and FTTC/O/D. Those services were initially a serious premium over standard dialup. No one cried over that. Those who needed the bandwidth paid for it. Demand for higher service tiers - and the money those tiers brought in - enabled the ISPs and other pipes to invest money in infrastructure, which paid off for the rest of us. DSL became affordable. Cable rose up to complete with it. Today, a 40Mb pipe to the home is fairly entry level, and it costs 1/10th of what a 1Mb T1 would have cost my business in 1995. No one cries about that either. So why the hue and cry over tiered service today? We should welcome it. The system the Sonos developers came up with - if it was indeed dependent on the net - probably would have been greatly curtailed if net neutrality were truly a thing 15 years ago. Thankfully, it wasn't.

Thats my first comment. The second one has to do with the Sonos vs. Denon case. In the blog post "Protecting What We Invented", I see the following:

"we have watched as several companies have entered the wireless home audio space with product features, designs and messaging strikingly similar to Sonos, without truly moving the experience forward in any way."

"We have always anticipated and continue to welcome competition in a space where we’ve worked alone for so long, but with the caveat that these new entrants come up with new ideas and true innovations, not merely copy what we have invented – to create a better experience for all of us music lovers out there."


I'd be interested in knowing what patents Denon allegedly infringed. While Sonos is indeed a quality product, WiFi mesh networks are not unique to Sonos, nor is streaming music services to a playback device. Your code might be IP, but your concepts aren't.

Reading directly from the HEOS Bar page at DenonUSA, I find a few things that the typical buyer just might consider "new ideas and true innovations":

"For the best multi-channel sound the HEOS Bar offers class-leading audio format support with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio."

"Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS Decoding
Supports the most popular surround sound formats including high-res lossless versions from Dolby and DTS."

"4x HDMI Inputs and HDMI Output
Supports 4K UHD with Audio Return Channel (ARC), allows single wire connection to the TV."


It seems that given the very large number of posts in this forum in support of adding HDMI to the Playbar, along with DTS and higher Dolby formats, that a jury might just consider Denon adding those features to be substantial changes over the existing Sonos hardware- enough to be adequate differentiation for the market. Those changes show Denon are responding to the market and filling a niche that Sonos does not support, and in fact has overtly stated that they will not support. According to Sonos, their target market are the streaming customers, not those audiophiles with physical media, or those seeking higher level home theater. Denon is wisely seeking their usual customers, and providing them with features they can't find with Sonos - and won't ever, apparently.

In that case, I don't think that entering court with an argument about Denon mimicking Sonos marketing and ad copy is going to be a winning argument. It would be better for Sonos to beat Denon at the game that Denon seems to be beating Sonos at, and that would be to leapfrog them in the home theater space and audiophile. Of course, with Denon already offering higher surround formats and HDMI connectivity, maybe they'll sue Sonos for copying them?

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5 replies

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Unfortunately, I think you’ve fundamentally misunderstood Net Neutrality (which did exist as a concept 15 years ago), as well as patent law. Perhaps some light research is in order?
Userlevel 7
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The patent infringement is no longer an allegation. It has already been held up in court.

https://www.law360.com/articles/995312/jury-awards-sonos-2m-in-denon-wireless-speaker-ip-row

As to your comments about net neutrality I suspect you are going to be bitterly disappointed over the coming years unless Congress reverse the recent decision.
Unfortunately, I think you’ve fundamentally misunderstood Net Neutrality (which did exist as a concept 15 years ago), as well as patent law. Perhaps some light research is in order?

Research is always in order. You're at a distinct disadvantage if you're not always learning. I've read quite a bit on the subject from both sides, and it appears to me that government is the problem here, along with plenty of hysteria. Despite incredible gains in internet technology over the decades prior to this policy coming into effect in 2014, somehow we're all going to be subjugated masses, unable to do the barest things unless the same government that does such amazing work with things like education, veteran's benefits, medicine, and property rights, also gets involved in "regulating" it. For our benefit of course.

People have such short memories. Historically, the only place anti-competitive forces can gain traction is in a government-permitted monopoly. If the true thrust of this movement was to restore competitiveness, and fair access to the internet, then people would be campaigning against monopoly, not against companies using their infrastructure as they see fit for the most profit.
The patent infringement is no longer an allegation. It has already been held up in court.

https://www.law360.com/articles/995312/jury-awards-sonos-2m-in-denon-wireless-speaker-ip-row


Thats unfortunate. So a company that is actually building products that people want is now fined by a court for violating Sonos patents that seem to describe distributed volume controls in the sparsest sense. I think Kinsella is correct, at least in this case, that IP law is stifling progress.

As to your comments about net neutrality I suspect you are going to be bitterly disappointed over the coming years unless Congress reverse the recent decision.

Since the last ruling was the FCC actually passing on regulating something (and that alone should be cause for celebration, for when does an arm of the federal government EVER voluntarily give up control of anything) and Congress doesn't appear to be moving on changing this, I'm pretty sure I'll be quite satisfied over the coming years.
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
The patent infringement is no longer an allegation. It has already been held up in court.

https://www.law360.com/articles/995312/jury-awards-sonos-2m-in-denon-wireless-speaker-ip-row


Thats unfortunate. So a company that is actually building products that people want is now fined by a court for violating Sonos patents that seem to describe distributed volume controls in the sparsest sense. I think Kinsella is correct, at least in this case, that IP law is stifling progress.

As to your comments about net neutrality I suspect you are going to be bitterly disappointed over the coming years unless Congress reverse the recent decision.

Since the last ruling was the FCC actually passing on regulating something (and that alone should be cause for celebration, for when does an arm of the federal government EVER voluntarily give up control of anything) and Congress doesn't appear to be moving on changing this, I'm pretty sure I'll be quite satisfied over the coming years.


You weren't originally commenting on the merits of the Patent law and it's application (in the US) but you stated that the patent infringement by Denon was merely an allegation - I pointed out that is not true. Whether or not Patents stifle innovation is quite another discussion altogether.

I don't know how this Net Neutrality is going to affect you personally but if you're one of the significant number of Americans who live in an area where there is only one internet service provider you are very likely to find yourself subject to myriad "offers" from them - IE you will need to have different packages depending on your internet usage - So if you want to stream music then pack A, films then pack B, upload photos pack C etc. All of these will cost and the basic package will be much worse than now and will be throttled significantly. In other words pay more or you get a worse service