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Sonos Files Patent Suit Over Denon’s Heos System

Santa Barbara, Calif. – Sonos filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against D+M Group over the Heos wireless multiroom-audio system launched earlier this year by Denon.

In its suit in U.S. District Court in Delaware, Sonos also complained that Denon “copied various aspects of Sonos’s marketing and branding,” but Sonos didn’t sue over those complaints. And in a blog post, Sonos co-founder and general counsel Craig Shelburne complained that “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.”

Sonos, however, filed a suit only against D+M, which did not respond to a request for comment by posting time.

The suit, which cites three technology patents and one design patent, seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction to prevent further infringement, damages for lost royalties, and treble damages for any infringement found to be willful. The suit, which seeks a trial by jury, didn’t specify an amount.

In his blog post, Shelburne said he’d prefer to stay out of court if possible because “we’re not fans of resorting to the courts to resolve disputes.” Sonos “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.”

Sonos said it owns almost 40 U.S. patents related to audio technology, and almost 250 patents are pending.

The four patents cited in the suit include the “014” patent covering methods for controlling players in a multizone system, including the ability of a controller app to configure and synchronize a group of wireless speakers and adjust the master volume of grouped speakers.

The 949 patent covers methods for adjusting both individual volumes and the master volume for grouped speakers.

The 080 patent covers methods for pairing two wireless speakers so that one delivers left-channel information while the other reproduces right-channel information.

And the 197 design patent covers the “ornamental design for a control strip for electronic appliances.” In this case, Sonos points to the volume up/down button and a separate mute button on the Heos speakers, amp/receivers/ and preamp/receivers.

In complaining about copy-cat marketing and branding, the suit contends Denon’s Heos name “is similar enough to Sonos that it led one industry publication to remark that ‘we can’t help but feel the similarity was deliberate.’”

 Denon’s naming convention for its Heos speaker line “closely resembles Sonos’s naming convention,” the suit also contends, pointing to Denon’s Heos 3, Heos 5, and Heos 7 compared to Sonos’s Play:1, Play:3,  and Play:5.

Denon’s website for the HEOS products “also has a layout that is similar to Sonos’s website,” Denon’s  marketing materials “use graphics that closely resemble graphics used in Sonos’s marketing materials,” and Denon’s taglines “closely resemble taglines used by Sonos,” the suit contends. In particular, the suit cited Denon’s “fill every room with music” tagline and compared it to Sonos’s “fill your home with music.”