Sonos Sues Lenbrook for Bluesound and BluOS, Alleging Patent Infringement


This will be interesting, especially after Denon. Sonos invented wireless multi room audio, and owns all the patents. Hard to imagine they won’t win this one, too.

https://www.cepro.com/article/sonos_sues_lenbrook_for_bluesound_bluos_alleged_patent_infringement

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Wonder who’s next.... Apple?
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I don't know how to feel about this. I admit I don't know enough about patent law to know what's right here. However, a couple of those patents sound very broad. Is the patent on synchronizing the speakers, or the exact method of synchronization. I don't really like the idea of something that's really essential to the concept of multiroom being protected. You can't have real multiroom without it. It'd be like patenting 4WD, not a specific mechanism or suspension providing 4WD.

I want competition. I love my Sonos - have 8 devices and 7 zones now. But I also want some upstarts or even bigwigs keeping Sonos on their toes.
The idea of a patent is to encourage individuals and companies to spend significant time and resources developing technology, sometimes spawning a new industry, then share this idea with the public. The limited, protected use during the patent term allows the originator to have exclusive use of the technology or share it for a fee. After the patent expires (typically 20 years) the technology is in the public domain. The ultimate goal is to encourage spread of the technology as far as possible.

An alternate strategy is a "trade secret", but if there is a leak or parallel discovery, the advantage is gone. Trade secrets can work very well for some items, such as food and beverages. The founder or an heir keeps the formula locked in a safe and periodically brews a batch of flavor elixir while locked in a secret lab.
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I understand the reasoning, but that depends on the quality of the patents themselves, and making sure they're well written and specific.

Working in technology myself, I also wonder if the 20 year timeframe isn't out of date in the software age. Digital technology moves pretty darn fast.

As I said, I don't know how to feel about this. The good and bad effects on the whole multiroom audio industry are not cut and dried on either side.
I think Sonos' response to this article (CEPro is often biased against Sonos, as it's a mouthpiece for Custom Installers) is spot on. It costs a fortune to develop new technology, perfect it, and patent it.

A Sonos spokesperson reached out to CE Pro to add some "context" to this piece:

We welcome and encourage competition. We believe genuine innovation and mutual respect for intellectual property should be the basis for healthy competition as well as partnership. But simply copying without approval or appropriate compensation is detrimental. It reduces the value of invention and, in doing so, discourages the significant investment of turning new ideas and creativity into commercial realities.

As many of our inventions have become foundational for today’s multi-room, smart, connected listening experiences, we have developed a fair and reasonable licensing program that allows companies to rightfully use our inventions and make them available to customers. In this case, Bluesound chose not to take up this offer.
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Bad patents can be appealed, something far cheaper than ignoring them and hoping you won't get caught.

Good patents can usually be licenced, usually cheaper than getting caught.

If Sonos was all "dog in a manger" I'd be unhappy with them but that doesn't seem to be the situation here.
I do not like software patents issued for obvious snips of code that have not yet been published. In some cases the code should never have been patented, but an aggressive filer wrote it up and an inexperienced patent examiner thought it was unique. There are groups attempting to counter this practice by publishing as much code as possible. This code then becomes "Prior Art" and Prior Art cannot be patented. In this context a bubble sort, in my opinion, would not be patent worthy, but quick sort was an innovation.
IMO, the multi room trick isn't as valuable as it was before the advent of streaming services over the net. Prior to that, the ability to play different music in different rooms from a single NAS was very useful. Now, everyone that has a device can stream the music of their choice to a speaker in their room; many don't even have a NAS. So why does one even need multi room in the Sonos flavour?

Whether this music is streamed via the more sensible casting route that takes the phone out of the loop, or via the streaming from the device all the time route adopted by BT or Airplay.

I doubt if the big boys - Apple, Google or Amazon - are paying any fees to Sonos. If not, I also don't think that they would be doing what they already do in this space in violation of Sonos patent rights.
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Wonder who’s next.... Apple?


I'm not terribly familiar with how Apple's version of multiroom works, but if they did copy Sonos in any way, I'd have to say no. Apple holds way too much leverage over Sonos because of all the other products and services they offer. Apple can change their OS so that Sonos doesn't run as well (which they already do). They can remove Apple music and airplay from Sonos. They can essential turn Apple fans away from Sonos. Amazon and Google are the same in this regards

IMO, this is a big anti-trust issue. While these tech giants may not have a pure monopoly in any one line of business, the fact that they play in dozens of markets allows them to bully smaller companies to get what they want and control the market. It stifles competition, hurts smaller companies, and ultimately hurts the consumer. I really hope that government (the US government at least) takes a look at this soon and possible puts in laws that prevents a corporation from holding this kind of leverage.

IMO, the multi room trick isn't as valuable as it was before the advent of streaming services over the net. Prior to that, the ability to play different music in different rooms from a single NAS was very useful. Now, everyone that has a device can stream the music of their choice to a speaker in their room; many don't even have a NAS. So why does one even need multi room in the Sonos flavour?

The source of audio content is not the same thing as being able to play a single stream or various streams in multiple rooms. I'm sure there are many who bought into Sonos for the ability to play from a NAS with no concern for multiroom capabilities, but certainly not anywhere near all.
I doubt if the big boys - Apple, Google or Amazon - are paying any fees to Sonos. If not, I also don't think that they would be doing what they already do in this space in violation of Sonos patent rights.

It's entirely possible that the flavor of multiroom these companies do bypass the Sonos patents. I'm mostly familiar with Amazon, and it's limited in flexibility certainly does make you think it's done in an entirely different way. It's also possible, as I stated before, that Sonos doesn't want to sue them for fear of how these companies could retaliate. Sonos needs to keep these relationships strong and have access to the services they provide.

It's also rumored than Sonos made a deal with Google when negotiating the contract for Google Assistant integration. Sonos agreed to let patent violations slide if Google agreed to do the integration, which the originally had little interest in. Perhaps Sonos had some level of leverage from an avoiding bad PR situation, but certainly not much.
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I'm not terribly familiar with how Apple's version of multiroom works, but if they did copy Sonos in any way, I'd have to say no. Apple holds way too much leverage over Sonos because of all the other products and services they offer.


I don't know if this is true. Sonos (reportedly) used the threat of patent infringement litigation to reach an agreement with Google re assistant + Sonos integration. They may have already done the same with apple (first to get apple music, airplay 2etc). Smart play by Sonos with Google for sure.
IMO, the multi room trick isn't as valuable as it was before the advent of streaming services over the net. Prior to that, the ability to play different music in different rooms from a single NAS was very useful. Now, everyone that has a device can stream the music of their choice to a speaker in their room; many don't even have a NAS. So why does one even need multi room in the Sonos flavour?

Whether this music is streamed via the more sensible casting route that takes the phone out of the loop, or via the streaming from the device all the time route adopted by BT or Airplay.

I doubt if the big boys - Apple, Google or Amazon - are paying any fees to Sonos. If not, I also don't think that they would be doing what they already do in this space in violation of Sonos patent rights.



I know multi-room has never held much use for you, but I use it every single day. It was the single fundamental reason for me buying Sonos, and I dare say that holds true for many, if not the majority, of Sonos users. It is certainly the feature that separates Sonos from individual Bluetooth or wired speakers.
I know multi-room has never held much use for you, but I use it every single day. It was the single fundamental reason for me buying Sonos, and I dare say that holds true for many, if not the majority, of Sonos users. It is certainly the feature that separates Sonos from individual Bluetooth or wired speakers.
Why do you use it so? To play the same music in different rooms, or different music in different rooms? In the latter case, is it single source from a NAS or multiple sources?

As to the other part, it may well be that with the large sales of play 1 and now One units, that must easily outnumber all other Sonos product sales by volume, the user profile may have shifted away from how it was before these sales.
Also in my case what I use multi room for is for balanced coverage in a large open plan living/dining/patio, that has a combination of Connect/Connect Amp/Play 1 units across it. Here, now that I have Echo Dots wired to line in jacks, I am able to get this coverage even via Alexa based permanent Dot groups, with the same perfect sync and stable music play as when I use Sonos groups; if I were buying new therefore, and did not need NAS based music, Sonos would not be a default choice as it was back in 2011.

I have no idea about this, but this Echo driven multi room approach may not be in violation of Sonos patents, and if so, limits any Sonos stranglehold on multi room. I don't know how well HomePods do this, but it looks likely that Apple has their own multi room solution as well, reinforcing the point if that is so.
@Kumar don't you have at least one pair, of Play:1s? With a Sub attached? Well, that's 'multi-room'. A bonded set is a special type of group.
@ratty: see my post just prior to yours, that acknowledges what you say.
Why do you use it so? To play the same music in different rooms, or different music in different rooms? In the latter case, is it single source from a NAS or multiple sources?

As to the other part, it may well be that with the large sales of play 1 and now One units, that must easily outnumber all other Sonos product sales by volume, the user profile may have shifted away from how it was before these sales.


I use it every way possible. Same source in multiple rooms, different sources in different rooms, and combinations of the two. Just this morning I grouped my bedroom wake up music with the bathroom, then transferred it to the kitchen. I play music from an NAS, SiriusXM, Amazon Music, and TuneIn. Also, seeing as I just moved into a new condo with a large open great room, I see multi-room to be used even more.

As to the second part, I assume anyone paying $200 has considered the capabilities that make it cost $200 instead of $50-$100 for a Bluetooth speaker, and have made their decision based on those differences. Multi-room capability is certainly one of those differences.
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Re:multiroom, I listen to podcasts or lectures while cleaning or working around the house, so having it play in all rooms is nice. I also use it for entertaining, so I have the same music inside and outside the house. It really is a great thing, and I’m glad Sonos kicked off this boom, but is multiroom specific enough for a 20 year hold? I have a hard time swallowing that something that broad deserves a patent. The method of synchronizing multiple rooms? Sure - show your work, show your math. But the availability of multiroom synced audio, while cool, is not innovative enough for a patent, and in fact giving one company total control over that market for that long. I’m in IT, and we’ve had technologies that lasted less 20 years but still an impact. Moreso, this stifles rather than promotes innovation, imho, when it comes to software.
I have a hard time swallowing that something that broad deserves a patent. The method of synchronizing multiple rooms? Sure - show your work, show your math.
Interesting comment that, and it is the basis for the argument that India advances against the West when it comes to patent protection law enforcement.
Based on what little I understand of this subject, the West grants product patents, that protect the product, never mind how it is made. India grants and therefore protects only process patents, that therefore allow the making of the same product via a different process. Where this battle becomes serious is when it comes to the pharma industry.
China, I suspect, simply does not bother to argue, with very little protection offered in Chinese courts.
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I'm not terribly familiar with how Apple's version of multiroom works, but if they did copy Sonos in any way, I'd have to say no. Apple holds way too much leverage over Sonos because of all the other products and services they offer.
I don't know if this is true. Sonos (reportedly) used the threat of patent infringement litigation to reach an agreement with Google re assistant + Sonos integration. They may have already done the same with apple (first to get apple music, airplay 2etc). Smart play by Sonos with Google for sure.


That was my statement, not Belly's.

I mentioned Google integration case already. Agreed that they did use this as a threat, but it feels more like a bluff to me. I doublt Sonos would have actually sued them if Google had refused.

As far as Apple goes, the timing doesn't work. Apple music has worked with Sonos long before Apple had their own version of multiroom audio. Airplay 2 shouldn't have required any leverage on Sonos part because it was clearly in Apple's best interest to have it work on Sonos. It was a new protocol that Apple wanted to be widely used and adopted quickly. Besides, Sonos is by far the only A/V brand that work with airplay 2. For Apple to deny it from Sonos while allowing it for others would have been a clear violation.
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Also in my case what I use multi room for is for balanced coverage in a large open plan living/dining/patio, that has a combination of Connect/Connect Amp/Play 1 units across it. Here, now that I have Echo Dots wired to line in jacks, I am able to get this coverage even via Alexa based permanent Dot groups, with the same perfect sync and stable music play as when I use Sonos groups; if I were buying new therefore, and did not need NAS based music, Sonos would not be a default choice as it was back in 2011.

@Kumar, you're original point was that multiroom capabilities aren't that useful anymore. Now it seems like you've shifted to say that Sonos multiroom capabilities aren't that valuable and you can accomplish multiroom by other means, like Dot groups. I don't think there's any disagreement about this separate point since Sonos certainly isn't the only brand offering multroom capabilities. The question, to me anyway, is whether Sonos does multroom better than the competition, and whether competition has 'cheated' by copying patents that Sonos holds.

I have no idea about this, but this Echo driven multi room approach may not be in violation of Sonos patents, and if so, limits any Sonos stranglehold on multi room. I don't know how well HomePods do this, but it looks likely that Apple has their own multi room solution as well, reinforcing the point if that is so.

I don't think echo is in violation personally. There are quite a few features lacking with echos that Sonos has. The two biggest features I see is the ability to add/remove streams to an existing stream. With echos, you can only set the rooms in the group when you initiate playback. The second factor is that echo only works with streaming sources. It does not work with local libraries or line-in sources (including TVs). Even their latest product, echo link, which has a line in, specifically points out that you can't do multiroom with it.

I would guess that removing these features allows Alexa to do a much more rudimentary, less dynamic method of multiroom that is completely different than Sonos. I'd also say that, this basic multiroom capability probably meets the needs of a big chuck of the market who only stream and don't think Sonos multiroom adds enough value, or aren't aware of what that functionality can give them.

@Kumar, you're original point was that multiroom capabilities aren't that useful anymore. Now it seems like you've shifted to say that Sonos multiroom capabilities aren't that valuable and you can accomplish multiroom by other means, like Dot groups. I don't think there's any disagreement about this separate point since Sonos certainly isn't the only brand offering multroom capabilities.
I'd also say that, this basic multiroom capability probably meets the needs of a big chuck of the market who only stream and don't think Sonos multiroom adds enough value, or aren't aware of what that functionality can give them.

You are reinforcing what I said via the quoted.
I only said that the Sonos capability is not as valuable as it was in the past, because it is not unique any more in ways that matter to a big part of the market that now can stream its music. It may be that this market does not know better, but it is what it is. And this state of "ignorance" is likely to continue. And Sonos isn't therefore likely to see a large revenue stream from patent fees or lawsuits for just this reason, because the market has moved on with the advent of these new sources of music. Those paying fees or suffering lawsuits are those who haven't been smart enough to sidestep Sonos and reshape the market in a changing environment as Amazon has, but have just tried to copy Sonos, never a winning strategy, regardless of the license fee issue that surrounds it. Compare the market success of Echo v that of Denon/Bluesound, as an example.
That is all I am saying.
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Re:multiroom, I listen to podcasts or lectures while cleaning or working around the house, so having it play in all rooms is nice. I also use it for entertaining, so I have the same music inside and outside the house. It really is a great thing, and I’m glad Sonos kicked off this boom, but is multiroom specific enough for a 20 year hold? I have a hard time swallowing that something that broad deserves a patent. The method of synchronizing multiple rooms? Sure - show your work, show your math. But the availability of multiroom synced audio, while cool, is not innovative enough for a patent, and in fact giving one company total control over that market for that long. I’m in IT, and we’ve had technologies that lasted less 20 years but still an impact. Moreso, this stifles rather than promotes innovation, imho, when it comes to software.

Seems like an extreme example in that Sonos has not started lawsuits against all the companies that do multiroom audio in one form or another. It seems as though Sonos has patented certain techniques and features for accomplishing multiroom , and that seems more reasonable to me. @buzz said earlier, you should be able to take the time and money to invent something new without having to worry that someone else is going to copy your work and take all your profits.

Personally, I don't see multiroom audio as a unique idea. I do think the method for keeping things in sync as unique. I do think that another company should be able to come up with a different way of doing it without violating the patent. As well, you shouldn't be able to hold patents you aren't using just to prevent someone else from using it, at least not hold it for very long.

Where things get a little more debatable to me is when an inventor spends the time and effort to make their invention appeal to the public. If I create a widget and then spend a million dollars on ads and such to let people know it's out there and how it can improve thier life, even though the widget doesn't have any unique tech or features, just used in a different way, I don't want some no name brand placing their copy of my product in stores right next to mind, leveraging all the advertisement I did.

As a hypothetical, say Sonos comes up with a idea of a speaker grill made of white board material. Customers can write on it with their own designs, then wipe them off. There isn't any new tech about that at all, it's a new idea. Sonos should be able to protect that idea for a certain length of time.
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@Kumar, you're original point was that multiroom capabilities aren't that useful anymore. Now it seems like you've shifted to say that Sonos multiroom capabilities aren't that valuable and you can accomplish multiroom by other means, like Dot groups. I don't think there's any disagreement about this separate point since Sonos certainly isn't the only brand offering multroom capabilities.I'd also say that, this basic multiroom capability probably meets the needs of a big chuck of the market who only stream and don't think Sonos multiroom adds enough value, or aren't aware of what that functionality can give them.
You are reinforcing what I said via the quoted.


i understood "multiroom trick' to imply multiroom audio in general, not just Sonos multiroom. I see that we agree now.

I only said that the Sonos capability is not as valuable as it was in the past, because it is not unique any more in ways that matter to a big part of the market that now can stream its music. It may be that this market does not know better, but it is what it is. And this state of "ignorance" is likely to continue. And Sonos isn't therefore likely to see a large revenue stream from patent fees or lawsuits for just this reason, because the market has moved on with the advent of these new sources of music.

Yes and no. Your correct in the sense that a customer deciding between an echo and Sonos One will see no difference in multiroom because they don't know any better. That ignorance is because they'll never experienced the difference or because Sonos has not put forth the effort to advertise the difference. Some are obvious and would be clear to some who look at it seriously. I don't think someone who values integrating their TV audio with their audio system will fail to notice the difference. I imagine most A/V installers will point out the differences to their customers. I wouldn't conclude that holding patents on these difference don't matter anymore.


Those paying fees or suffering lawsuits are those who haven't been smart enough to sidestep Sonos and reshape the market in a changing environment as Amazon has, but have just tried to copy Sonos, never a winning strategy, regardless of the license fee issue that surrounds it. Compare the market success of Echo v that of Denon/Bluesound, as an example.
That is all I am saying.


But echos are not a success because of their multiroom capabilities or even sound quality, it 100% based on the voice assistant. You could also argue that they target a slightly different demographic based on cost and sound quality. I don't know that you could say that Denon/Bluesound would be successful using Echos method of multiroom. I'm not even sure they could copy it well if it uses cloud tech to get it done. In fact, what other company has been much of a success doing multiroom without heavily using voice assistant (and probably bluetooth) as the selling point? Granted, lots of people buy Sonos for the voice assisant now and not multiroom.
Denon & Bluesound rely on your WiFi, so not much chance they can handle true multiroom without stuttering. “Hi-Res” multiroom on them is simply laughable. Sonos’ clear advantage over all the 2nd rate competition has always been SonosNet.
But echos are not a success because of their multiroom capabilities or even sound quality, it 100% based on the voice assistant. You could also argue that they target a slightly different demographic based on cost and sound quality.
Again, the first sentence quoted makes the same point that I am making about multi room, and its importance to the extent only Sonos delivers to more than a niche. The first existential crisis that Sonos faced once it was past its early days, was delivered to it via Echo. That would suggest Echo did more than just "target a slightly different demographic". For some time, that is what I too thought about Echo in the initial days; it was thus a big surprise to learn just how much their success affected Sonos sales when I read about the crisis they caused in Sonos.

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