Earlier this year, Sonos ended its long feud with D&M Holdings after settling a lawsuit that it initially filed in 2014. Having come out triumphant against the parent company of Denon and Marantz, Sonos has now found a new target in the form of Lenbrook..
Lenbrook is the company behind the Bluesound and BluOS brands, with the firm being a major player in the world of multi-room audio. Of course, Sonos is the dominant company in that space, and as such holds the keys to many important patents – patents that it is prepared to weaponise in its fight against Lenbrook.
In a filing with United States District Court for the Central District of California on June 20th, Sonos alleged that Lenbrook infringes seven of its patents, including the two patents that D&M was found to have infringed in a jury trial.
While Sonos is suing Lenbrook for infringing seven patents, the company claims that Lenbrook has infringed 115 patents in total. Sonos says it first made Lenbrook aware of the infringement back in November 2018, with the company sending a notice alleging that 70 of its patents had been infringed. It added a further 45 to the list in June 2019. The patents named in the lawsuit cover a range of features, including the synchronisation and volume control of multi-room speakers, as well as network media playback.
Sonos Claims Wrongdoing Began When Lenbrook Was A Sonos Distributor
The lawsuit with Lenbrook comes after a previously close relationship between the two companies. In fact, Lenbrook was a Sonos distributor in Canada from 2007 to 2008, prior to the launch of Bluesound in 2013. Sonos claims that this relationship meant Lenbrook had “intimate knowledge of Sonos’ wireless audio product and technology.”
Lenbrook denies any wrongdoing and has vowed to vigorously fight the lawsuit. In a statement the company noted, “Lenbrook respects the valid intellectual property rights of others.”
The statement continued, “This proprietary development has relied on 40 years of internal or contracted Lenbrook know-how in the areas of amplification, acoustics, and connected audio allowing Lenbrook to develop products delivering high-resolution audio files and streaming music throughout residences and commercial establishments.”
Sonos, meanwhile, claims that not only did Lenbrook steal the technology that powers the Bluesound multi-room system, but outright copied the device. In the lawsuit, the firm alleges that products such as Bluesound’s Pulse are remarkably similar to the company’s own products, specifically the Sonos Play:5 and Play:3.
Does Sonos Have A Chance Of Defeating Lenbrook?
Sonos is asking for quite a lot in its suit, requesting both an injunction against Bluesound products, as well as a higher award of damages for ‘wilful infringement’. If Sonos prevails, this could have a major effect on the custom install industry, although we don’t expect that it will come to that.
There’s a reason we expect this lawsuit to be a rerun of the case against D&M Holdings, and that’s because Sonos is using the same patents to launch the litigation. There are two patents that are particularly key, as they’re the very same patents that saw D&M Holdings lose in court. Those patents are 8,588,949 and 9,195,258, and they focus on the ability to independently control specific speakers and zones.
Patent 8,588,949 is entitled ‘Method and Apparatus for Adjusting Volume Levels in a Multi-Zone System’, and it covers the way Sonos manages its networked speakers. It describes a ‘controller’ that can control ‘independent playback devices’ over a local area network and can manipulate everything from the volume of each zone player or the grouping of each speaker. That describes just about every multi-room speaker system currently on the market.
Lenbrook is prepared to defend itself against the lawsuit, and even alluded to the whole thing being unnecessary. The company acknowledged it received correspondence from Sonos back in November and commented, “In accordance with Lenbrook’s standard business practice, while beginning its own investigation of Sonos’ patent concerns, Lenbrook, as a sign of goodwill and respect, did inquire whether Sonos had developed a standard licensing program and terms.”
Sonos for its part says that it has established a licensing agreement with many firms, but argues that Lenbrook chose not to take up the offer. Despite this, Lenbrook argues that its speakers are radically different from what is on offer from Sonos.
“Lenbrook’s high-resolution audio capabilities substantively differentiates Lenbrook’s products from those of Sonos and many other of Sonos’ actual direct competitors. Lenbrook believes it is generally recognized by the industry as the first legacy audio company to deliver such a complete and differentiated solution to the audiophile marketplace,” the company said in a statement.