back to article Speaker for yourself: Looks like 5 patents are table stakes as Google countersues Sonos

Google has accused Sonos of infringing five of its patents in an escalation of a spat that begun five months ago when the speaker slinger alleged the search giant infringed its own IP. The pair had previously collaborated on software integration for Sonos's wireless home speakers. The 28-page broadside [PDF] was filed …

  1. martinusher Silver badge

    Invention?

    The idea of broadcasting media to players in different rooms of a house isn't new. I first did this decades ago using a low power FM transmitter and old school boomboxes with the audio source eventually being a streaming devices over time. Extending this to networked devices was a logical step when that technology became avaialble. I still use Logitech (Slim Devices) Squeezebox radios, devices which have been capable of costreaming from the outset although this was first conceived as a way of pairing mono devices to get stereo. These were first on sale over a decade ago.

    Amazon offers multi-room audio with their Echo speakers (also stereo pairing for their Echo Studio units).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Invention?

      "The idea of broadcasting media to players in different rooms of a house isn't new."

      B&O has had these sort of wired multi-room systems since at least the 1980's.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Invention?

        Wired systems have been around probably for close on a century, they are called PA systems.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Invention?

          Sure. And you could order the troubadour or the lyre player to follow you from the great hall to the chapel in the distant past.

          B&O were selling for consumers (like Sonos) and the small multiroom wall control units could redirect audio from your central Radio/CD/Vinyl/Cassette players to a specific room.

          1. Timbo

            Re: Invention?

            "B&O were selling for consumers (like Sonos) and the small multiroom wall control units could redirect audio from your central Radio/CD/Vinyl/Cassette players to a specific room."

            I used to sell and install B&O systems, back in the 1980's and the system to which you refer was called a Master Control Link...it was a remote control unit fitted in other rooms, which allowed you to select the source, change the volume and switch that rooms speakers on and off.

            It comprised a small panel that contained an infra-red remote "eye" for each room, that was fitted in a slim plastic box that could be fitted on a wall which was linked by a multicore cable to a speaker switch box that was placed out of sight within each room - and that is where the speakers in that room plugged into. This switch box was then connected by a thicker multi-conductor cable back to the B&O receiver/amplifier or music centre.

            In other words it was a very elaborate remote control speaker switching system and you could only select ONE source to play at a time - and that was the only one that could be "played" over the entire system...if someone wanted the radio on, in another room, you couldn't play a CD in your room at the same time.

            At least with the Sonos system, you can have multiple sources playing all at once in diffferent rooms, via different Sonos products placed in each room and all working over a wireless connection.

      2. don't you hate it when you lose your account Bronze badge

        Marantz model 1030

        I belive from the early 70 offers 2 sets of speakers and is still going strong in my bedroom

    2. InsaneGeek

      Re: Invention?

      I believe the issue is that Sonos was the one who got the patent for synchronized speakers in multiple areas over the air. Sure like you said devices have been able to play zoned audio for decades (ie av matrix switches) but not separate units synchronizing audio amongst them to not have be able to not have any latency gaps between the devices that was what they had a decade before Alexa, Google home, etc existed

      1. TinTinTeroo

        Re: Invention?

        Logitech Squeezeboxes have been playing synchronised, multi room audio for over 15 years.

        Still way better than Sonos

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Invention?

      "The idea of broadcasting media to players in different rooms of a house isn't new"

      You can also do this with an icecast server and feed it with your own playlist, though the music may not be entirely synchronized, depending on the players/PCs involved. [the internet radio I was given years ago lets you specify a custom station in its cloud thingy, and so I use a LAN address for the icecast server, running on FreeBSD and being fed with sometimes random, sometimes planned, songs from all of the audio CDs I've ripped to OGG format].

      But yeah, NOT a new idea. Since, like, broadcast radio. And it's possible to do your own.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Invention?

        I assume the synchronisation is the "invention".

        However, "shall synchronize" is not an invention. Patents are about "how", not "what".

        I am absolutely certain that there are several ways to do this.

        And if either of them are claiming "synchronize clocks then distribute timestamps for points in the audio stream", then the patent must be invalidated because that is "bloody obvious to anyone vaguely aware of the art", let alone skilled.

        Also SMPTE have published several standards for doing that since before Google was founded.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Invention?

      Family did this in 1940s by wiring speakers in each room to our battery (Car type12 volt) driven 'radio' ['Wireless set' in UK speak]. Output in each room is not new.

  2. IGotOut Silver badge

    Popcorn

    Which one holds the patent for deliberately bricking old systems?

    Hope this becomes a very long and expensive case given both their attitudes to the end consumer.

    1. Joe W Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Popcorn

      While I usually dislike the "only the lawyers win" outcome, I'd really appreciate that here. Came to say exactly that.

      No popcorn, but have one of those.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this just a warm up act?

    before the victor sues Apple?

    After all everyone loves to sue Apple don't they? It might even starting to be a legal profession rite of passage. Something to add to your CV, citing how many suits have you filed against Apple.

    As for this one... A plague on both of them. Sonos for bricking devices and Google for... everything else.

  4. tip pc Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Apple airport express Streaming audio over wifi ~2004

    I had a few of these airport Express’s from 2004 streaming audio to multiple rooms, great for parties, the same music in all rooms or stream just what you want to individual rooms, works great.

    Will be interesting to see how they dismiss “prior art”

  5. grizewald
    Facepalm

    I hope google destroy them

    Sonos have been showing increasing signs of being a desperate company for some time now. The more a company becomes hostile towards its customers and begins to view hostile litigation as an action which might save it from obscurity and eventual collapse, the more certain it becomes that all they fear will come to pass.

    I'm no big fan of google, but Sonos seem to be begging for destruction and I hope google deliver it.

  6. low_resolution_foxxes Bronze badge

    I am not a lawyer - but let's have a quick look at these revolutionary Sonos patents.

    US 8,588,949

    -A multimedia controller with a plurality of speakers on a network (wow!!!!)

    -It has a user interface with VOLUME settings (fuck me, this is serious R&D)

    -A computer with software and a UI that can play music on a network, hmmmmmmmm

    -Awesome! When you press the volume UI, the fucking sound level changes on the speakers (seriously..?)

    -OK, I just read dozens of claims that are legalese jargon for "user gone pressed a button, speaker gone changed the volume!“

    -Here come the big guns - there are GROUPS of speakers, with different volume settings (begads, a miracle)

    I am not qualified to judge the merits of this case. But frankly, my non-tech wife could have drunk a bottle of Prosecco and adequately described these patent claims.

    Perhaps later I will investigate if the other patents have a similar level of extreme and futuristic technology.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      What's the date on it?

      I only ask because every public space in the entire world that has a zoned PA system capable of playing muzak does that.

      Which is every cruise liner and theme park, most museums, railway stations, airports...

      Heck, chances are reasonably good that Sonos' own office block has one.

      Disneyworld and Disneyland have been doing this using "microprocessors" since the 80s, if not earlier.

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