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Photo: Sonos

Speaker maker Sonos on Tuesday sued Google for patent infringement and asked a trade court to bar importation of some Google products that are manufactured overseas.

Why it matters: Sonos has been trying to add smarts to its speakers while touting their audio quality to deal with a flood of competition from tech players offering inexpensive smart speakers. It had previously worked with Google to bring that company's voice assistant to its speakers.

Driving the news: Sonos filed suit in federal court and also filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, which has the power to bar the importation of products found to infringe patents.

Our thought bubble: In its suit, Sonos says that Google has not only been infringing patents but also flooding the market with less expensive products.

  • That latter claim seems true on its face, though likely not unlawful, and is the heart of the challenge Sonos faces.
  • There are a ton of Amazon and Google smart speakers on the market, and those companies can make money by selling advertising and services, where as Sonos is trying to profit by selling hardware.

What they're saying:

  • Sonos CEO Patrick Spence: "Google is an important partner with whom we have collaborated successfully for years, including bringing the Google Assistant to the Sonos platform last year. However, Google has been blatantly and knowingly copying our patented technology in creating its audio products."
  • Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda: "Over the years, we have had numerous ongoing conversations with Sonos about both companies' IP rights and we are disappointed that Sonos brought these lawsuits instead of continuing negotiations in good faith. We dispute these claims and will defend them vigorously."

The bottom line: Google is facing broad investigations by federal and state authorities into potentially monopolistic behavior, and each new challenge from smaller competitors could fuel the antitrust bandwagon.

Go deeper

Biden gets mixed grades on revolving door

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden is getting mixed marks for his reliance on industry insiders to staff his administration during its first 100 days.

Why it matters: Progressives have leaned on the new president to limit the revolving door between industry and government. A new report from the Revolving Door Project praises him on that front but highlights key hires it deems ethically questionable.

Exclusive: Sen. Coons sees new era of bipartisanship on China

Sen. Chris Coons. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a "shock to the system," propelling members of Congress toward the goal of shoring up America's ability to compete with China, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told Axios during an interview Thursday.

Why it matters: Competition between China's authoritarian model and the West's liberal democratic one is likely to define the 21st century. A bipartisan response would help the U.S. present a united front.

By the numbers: States weighing voting changes

Data: Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law; Cartogram: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Georgia is not alone in passing a law adding voting restrictions, but other states are seeing a surge in provisions and proposals that would expand access to the polls, according to data from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Driving the news: Just Wednesday, the New York State Assembly passed a bill to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have been released from prison.