Zonophone was founded in 1899 in Camden, New Jersey by Frank Seaman. Seaman had worked for Emile Berliner's Berliner Gramophone. Seaman decided to start his own company to produce analogue disc records and disc phonographs. Seaman's "Zon-O-Phone" records design and technology were shamelessly stolen from Berliner, and the machines similarly copied from the products of Eldridge Johnson's Consolidated Talking Machine Company. Seaman then sued Berliner and Johnson for violating his technology! With the help of lawyer Phillip Mauro, Seaman arranged for an alliance with Columbia Records (then manufacturing only cylinder records and machines), arguing that the patents held by Columbia concerning cylinders applied to any type of recording where a stylus vibrated in a groove, and that Zon-O-Phone would pay royalties if Columbia helped him drive Berliner out of business. In 1900 Seaman and Mauro succeeded in getting a judge to file an injunction that Berliner and Johnson stop making their products.
Johnson and Berliner counter-sued, and the following year emerged victorious in court—prompting the name of their new combined company, The Victor.
Further legal actions dragged on until 1903, when all of the United States and Latin American assets of Zon-O-Phone were turned over to Victor, and the Europe and British Commonwealth assets to the Gramophone & Typewriter Company (which was to become HMV).
Victor Talking Machine continued use of the "Zonophone" name to market cheaper records which for whatever reason were not of the technical standard of the Victor label until retiring the label in 1910.