ITC probing Sonos complaint against Google

The investigation brings more government scrutiny to the tech giant's competitive practices
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

A federal regulatory agency is probing whether Google infringed upon Sonos patents, bringing more government scrutiny to the internet giant's competitive practices. The US International Trade Commission (ITC) is opening its investigation at the behest of Sonos, which filed a complaint against Google last month. 

Specifically, the ITC will probe whether Google violated the Tariff Act of 1930 when it imported to the US and sold certain audio players and controllers, as well as their respective components. Sonos has asked the ITC issue a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders against Google. 

Sonos was a pioneer in networked audio, but its speakers have been overshadowed in recent years by the Google Home and Amazon Echo. Google and Amazon have offered their smart speakers for a fraction of the cost of a Sonos speaker, flooding the market with devices as a means of bringing customers into their respective digital ecosystems. 

In addition to complaining to the ITC, Sonos also filed suit against Google in a federal district court last month, and its CEO Patrick Spence testified against Google before a US House antitrust subcommittee. 

A Google spokesperson responded to Spence's testimony, telling sister site CNET: "Sonos has made misleading statements about our history of working together. Our technology and devices were designed independently. We deny their claims vigorously, and will be defending against them."

Google and other US technology firms are already the subject of multiple, ongoing antitrust investigations, as regulators grapple with the growing size and influence of US tech giants. In September, attorneys general from 50 US states and territories launched a preliminary antitrust investigation into Google. Meanwhile, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in July launched a sweeping antitrust review into the industry's competitive conditions. In Congress, the House antitrust subcommittee's investigation into the tech industry has both Demoratic and Republican support

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