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Sonos Defeats Denon HEOS Again: Understanding the Patent Lawsuits

Sonos seeks injunction and double damages for D&M's ‘willful infringement’ of Sonos patents in the Denon HEOS line. Judge invalidates another D&M patent.

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11 Comments
Posted by dbendell on February 26, 2018

In the meantime, Sonos has now destroyed all 3rd party drivers with 8.3 and has claimed it opened its API, which btw sucks, most features are gone for 3rd party. Sonos has become the NRA of audio streaming! Thoughts and Prayers!

Posted by jonsmirl on February 26, 2018

There is an IEEE standard from 2008 addressing the area of the 258 patent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision_Time_Protocol
Protocols like this are commonly used on industrial productions line—like coordinating the robots you see working together in videos. Time synchronized audio using a similar protocol was implemented in Linux ALSA far before 2015.

As for 949, network group notification schemes have been around for over fifty years.  I hate these software patents that take a well know generic technique, group notifications, and then repatent it over and over with different packet contents. Group notification of volume,  Group notification of lighting control, Group notification of network login controllers, Group notification of robots, Group notification of traffic lights, Group notification of security cameras, etc…  This is not innovation and it should not be patentable.  Group notifications are such an old technology that it is part of the original Ethernet spec from 1980.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on February 26, 2018

You and me both, jonsmirl. I was especially baffled by the group volume control.

Posted by jonsmirl on February 26, 2018

I glanced through the 258 patent. It does not mention a major IEEE standard (1588) addressing exactly the material being patented. That’s because the patent has intertwined audio processing and time synchronization which are two separate things.  If you divide this patent into the correct pieces—time synchronization (a well known core technology) with group notifications (another well know technique) layered on top, you can see that there is nothing new here.

Nothing new is being invented in multi-player home audio. LANs have been around a long time. The core implementation of all of this stuff occurred in the 1980s at Xerox Park, Microsoft and Novell.  These are just audio players hooked together on a LAN. That does not give you license to take every piece of LAN technology, add the work audio, and repatent it.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on February 26, 2018

Netstreams had a patent on network-based audio-sync technology back in the day. I don’t understand it. I’ll just assume Sonos is doing it in a new and different way. I think also Sonos would be a sentimental favorite among juries.

Posted by jonsmirl on February 26, 2018

It is fine it Sonos wants to patent some squirrelly binary audio protocol that they are the only ones using.  It is not ok for Sonos to get a new patent containing claims on well known techniques. So the court will need to deconstruct this patent and remove all of the prior art that shouldn’t be in it. And then see if Denos infringes the very Sonos specific parts that are left.  The question here: is Denos skilled enough to bring inter partes review of the Sonos patents and present the needed prior art to invalidate all of the generic technology that should not be in these patents?

This is the core problem with software patents and why they should not be allowed. Before software patents existed you could only patent a specific implementation of an invention. For example you could patent a claw hammer, you could not patent the concept of “hammer”.  Software patents changed that by allowing you to patent algorithms. Patenting an algorithm is the equivalent of patenting the concept of “hammer”.  Once you get a patent to an algorithm you can control all uses of that algorithm including uses that never occurred to you.  This has resulted in things like software patents from Hayes modems being use to attack video codecs—something that hadn’t even been conceived of when Hayes modems were built.

Posted by jhamill1 on February 26, 2018

Regardless of the final outcome, the one product line that will NOT be going into our customers’ homes is Sonos; they have been incredibly unfriendly to the custom market that built their original reputation.

Posted by jonsmirl on February 26, 2018

If you are looking for prior art, here is public source code for a networked audio system using synchronized clocks that was written three years before the 258 patent was filed. Work began Jun 29, 2012.
https://github.com/thaytan/aurena

Posted by David Haddad on February 26, 2018

I would be very curious if D&M attorney’s had the foresight to put some Crestron programmers on the stand who could explain how room grouping and volume grouping were widely employed by even by small A/V firms a decade before Sonos “invented” them.

Posted by txrdhog on March 2, 2018

This must be the reason Denon recently removed group volume control on the HEOS Drive. So when will Denon release a firmware update that provides group volume control for the thousands of HEOS Drive owners. Without this functionality it is like having a car radio that can only adjust one speaker volume at a time. It makes the HEOS system worthless in my opinion.

Posted by dbendell on March 21, 2018

Any update? There was to be a March 5th court date.

11 Comments
Posted by dbendell on March 21, 2018

Any update? There was to be a March 5th court date.

Posted by txrdhog on March 2, 2018

This must be the reason Denon recently removed group volume control on the HEOS Drive. So when will Denon release a firmware update that provides group volume control for the thousands of HEOS Drive owners. Without this functionality it is like having a car radio that can only adjust one speaker volume at a time. It makes the HEOS system worthless in my opinion.

Posted by David Haddad on February 26, 2018

I would be very curious if D&M attorney’s had the foresight to put some Crestron programmers on the stand who could explain how room grouping and volume grouping were widely employed by even by small A/V firms a decade before Sonos “invented” them.

Posted by jonsmirl on February 26, 2018

If you are looking for prior art, here is public source code for a networked audio system using synchronized clocks that was written three years before the 258 patent was filed. Work began Jun 29, 2012.
https://github.com/thaytan/aurena

Posted by jhamill1 on February 26, 2018

Regardless of the final outcome, the one product line that will NOT be going into our customers’ homes is Sonos; they have been incredibly unfriendly to the custom market that built their original reputation.

Posted by jonsmirl on February 26, 2018

It is fine it Sonos wants to patent some squirrelly binary audio protocol that they are the only ones using.  It is not ok for Sonos to get a new patent containing claims on well known techniques. So the court will need to deconstruct this patent and remove all of the prior art that shouldn’t be in it. And then see if Denos infringes the very Sonos specific parts that are left.  The question here: is Denos skilled enough to bring inter partes review of the Sonos patents and present the needed prior art to invalidate all of the generic technology that should not be in these patents?

This is the core problem with software patents and why they should not be allowed. Before software patents existed you could only patent a specific implementation of an invention. For example you could patent a claw hammer, you could not patent the concept of “hammer”.  Software patents changed that by allowing you to patent algorithms. Patenting an algorithm is the equivalent of patenting the concept of “hammer”.  Once you get a patent to an algorithm you can control all uses of that algorithm including uses that never occurred to you.  This has resulted in things like software patents from Hayes modems being use to attack video codecs—something that hadn’t even been conceived of when Hayes modems were built.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on February 26, 2018

Netstreams had a patent on network-based audio-sync technology back in the day. I don’t understand it. I’ll just assume Sonos is doing it in a new and different way. I think also Sonos would be a sentimental favorite among juries.

Posted by jonsmirl on February 26, 2018

I glanced through the 258 patent. It does not mention a major IEEE standard (1588) addressing exactly the material being patented. That’s because the patent has intertwined audio processing and time synchronization which are two separate things.  If you divide this patent into the correct pieces—time synchronization (a well known core technology) with group notifications (another well know technique) layered on top, you can see that there is nothing new here.

Nothing new is being invented in multi-player home audio. LANs have been around a long time. The core implementation of all of this stuff occurred in the 1980s at Xerox Park, Microsoft and Novell.  These are just audio players hooked together on a LAN. That does not give you license to take every piece of LAN technology, add the work audio, and repatent it.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on February 26, 2018

You and me both, jonsmirl. I was especially baffled by the group volume control.

Posted by jonsmirl on February 26, 2018

There is an IEEE standard from 2008 addressing the area of the 258 patent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision_Time_Protocol
Protocols like this are commonly used on industrial productions line—like coordinating the robots you see working together in videos. Time synchronized audio using a similar protocol was implemented in Linux ALSA far before 2015.

As for 949, network group notification schemes have been around for over fifty years.  I hate these software patents that take a well know generic technique, group notifications, and then repatent it over and over with different packet contents. Group notification of volume,  Group notification of lighting control, Group notification of network login controllers, Group notification of robots, Group notification of traffic lights, Group notification of security cameras, etc…  This is not innovation and it should not be patentable.  Group notifications are such an old technology that it is part of the original Ethernet spec from 1980.

Posted by dbendell on February 26, 2018

In the meantime, Sonos has now destroyed all 3rd party drivers with 8.3 and has claimed it opened its API, which btw sucks, most features are gone for 3rd party. Sonos has become the NRA of audio streaming! Thoughts and Prayers!