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Sonos Sues D&M over Denon HEOS Wireless Speaker Systems

by November 06, 2014
The Sonos Play 5 (top) and Denon HEOS 7 (bottom)

The Sonos Play 5 (top) and Denon HEOS 7 (bottom)

Earlier this year, Denon released their HEOS lineup of wireless speaker systems designed for multi-room audio. Apparently, HEOS also caught the eye of the folks at Sonos, one of the pioneers in the field of wireless audio. On October 21st Sonos co-founder and general counsel Craig Shelburne announced that the company would be suing D&M Holdings over the new lineup. In a letter to D&M, Sonos noted that Denon was infringing on at least four of their patents. In addition, concerns were cited about the similarities in product naming and literature, some of which was allegedly copied word for word.

The full complaint discusses the patents in question:

  • 8,788,080: Multi-Channel Pairing in a Media System
  • 7,571,014: Method and Apparatus for Controlling Multimedia Players in a Multi-Zone system
  • 8,588,949: Method and Apparatus for Adjusting Volume Levels in a Multi-Zone System
  • D559,197: Control Strip for Electronic Appliances

In addition, the complaint gives specific examples regarding the similarities in marketing material and naming conventions, and even mentions that some third party review sites have commented on the similarities between the product lines. With respect to the names, we do note that they are similar (Play 1, Play 3, and Play 5, vs HEOS 3, HEOS 5, and HEOS 7), though both naming schemes are relatively generic. Given that the products are direct competitors, it’s also not surprising to see some similarities in marketing materials (though obviously word-for-word copying is frowned upon).

At this juncture, Sonos has stated that they aren’t interested in royalties or licensing fees. Instead, they’d prefer to sit down with Denon such that they can understand their position, and redesign their products accordingly.

Unsurprisingly, the folks at D&M have been relatively quiet about the lawsuit this far. Jim Caudill, CEO of D&M Group made the following statement:

D&M has been a technology innovator for over 100 years and has an extensive intellectual property portfolio to protect our products. Given our experience and wealth of expertise, we absolutely stand behind our HEOS products and technology and are well prepared to defend our intellectual property. We are an innovative company, constantly seeking to create the best products in the marketplace. We fully intend to take all necessary actions to protect our technology and product investment in our HEOS products.

The folks at Denon have also noted that while the HEOS line was recently released, it was a project more than a decade in the making, suggesting prior art may come into play.

About the author:
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Steve Munz is a “different” addition to Audioholics’ stable of contributors in that he is neither an engineer like Gene, nor has he worked in the industry like Cliff. In fact, Steve’s day job is network administration and accounting.

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