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By Craig Shelburne, Co-Founder & General Counsel
In 2002, when Sonos was born, we set out to reinvent HiFi for the home – driven by our vision of legendary sound and an easy, reliable way to play any music, in any room, without wires. A vision that was radically different from the experience that was already known, and one that ultimately led to the Sonos Wireless HiFi System that many of you love and enjoy every day.
What seems obvious today was an idea we crafted nearly alone for over ten years and against all odds, with a team of music lovers from around the world – diligently building, learning and revising a modern home music experience. Today, it seems like there’s a new entrant every month as music streaming and wireless speakers quickly move into the mainstream.
In a blog post from about six months ago, I outlined how Sonos thinks about our innovations and the patents that protect some of these inventions. In essence, we laid out an approach designed to increase visibility to our patent filings, so others could more closely track the innovations at the heart of the Sonos music experience. It is a simple proposition for anyone interested in how our system works, including our competitors: Read. Learn. Create your own experience. But don’t merely copy.
Unfortunately, since that time, 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.
Today, we notified one of these companies, D&M Holdings (a financial investment company that owns Denon), that they infringe at least four Sonos patents.
For anyone who has looked at Denon’s Heos product line, you will recognize many of the same elements found in Sonos products, with little or no effort to differentiate features or functionality. Beginning with its product name and messaging (which in some instances they have just copied word for word), Denon borrows liberally from virtually all aspects of the Sonos story. As one product reviewer noted, “If you’re familiar with the Sonos product line, you’ll get a serious case of déjà-vu looking at the HEOS offering.”
We evaluated whether D&M Holdings violates other intellectual property rights of Sonos and have learned that D&M Holdings’ manufacture, distribution, and/or sale of the HEOS system infringe a number of Sonos patents related to wireless audio products. Because of these violations, we filed a lawsuit in Delaware, our state of incorporation.
This is not an action we take lightly, as we’re not fans of resorting to the courts to resolve disputes. As a next step, we will offer to sit down with Denon, explain our views and give them time to modify their products. We are not asking for a royalty or other license fee – we just want Denon to build an experience that isn’t copying ours.
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.