Conglomerate Honeywell, the company which develops thermostats, had recently filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Nest Labs, alleging the infringement of seven Honeywell patents related to its thermostat technology. In response to this, Nest earlier released a statement stating, “Vigorously defend itself against Honeywell’s patent-attack strategy to stifle thoughtful competition.” Nest today just filed its official answer to Honeywell’s complaint today, and in addition to arguing that it isn’t infringing Honeywell’s patents. “Honeywell is worse than a patent troll,” says Nest CEO Tony Fadell. “They’re trying to strangle us, and we’re not going to allow that to happen.”
Fadell says Honeywell never called Nest prior to filing the lawsuit, and thus far has “rebuffed all attempts” to discuss the pending litigation. “They are not trying to get money out of us,” says Fadell. “They are trying to maintain the status quo.” That status quo is pretty sad, according to Nest’s filing: “In seven decades, there appears to be little more technological improvement to the flagship Honeywell thermostat than the replacement of a mechanical display with an LCD.”
According to the filing, “Honeywell has a track record of responding to innovation with lawsuits and overextended claims of intellectual property violations,” and the patents in question should all be invalidated by prior art — even, in some cases, by previous Honeywell patents Nest claims the company hid from the Patent Office. What’s more, Nest claims that some of Honeywell’s patents require mechanical components like a potentiometer, which the computer-controlled Learning Thermostat doesn’t have. According to Nest’s filing, all of this leads to “the inescapable conclusion that Nest Labs does not infringe a single valid claim from any of the asserted patents.”
Here’s the full list of Honeywell’s patents Nest thinks are invalid or irrelevant, and why:
#7,584,899, which covers a rotating ring around a central display. Nest says this was “implemented years earlier by engineers at Volkswagen,” who filed for a European patent.
#7,159,790, which covers a rotating selector with an offset rotation axis. You guessed it: Nest says Honeywell filed for exactly the same thing nearly 20 years prior, resulting in patent #4,405,080, a patent Honeywell didn’t disclose to the Patent Office.
#7,634,504, which is Honeywell’s wild patent for using natural language prompts to program a thermostat. Nest says this is a retread of patent #5,065,813, which was filed 15 years earlier and not shown to the PTO by Honeywell.
#6,975,958, which covers controlling a thermostat through the internet. Nest says this was already covered by now-expired patent #4,657,179, which Honeywell first filed for in 1984 — a patent it did not disclose to the Patent Office.
#7,142,948, which covers displaying the time it’ll take to reach a certain temperature. Nest says that was already covered by patent #6,286,764 and #5,767,488 — patents that were again not disclosed to the PTO.
#7,476,988, which covers “power-stealing” to charge the thermostat’s battery from the control wires. Nest says Honeywell already patented the idea ten years prior in patent #5,736,795 — and once again didn’t tell the Patent Office.
#7,159,789, which covers a thermostat with a rotatable selector dial partially hidden behind a non-moving cover. At this point you should be ready for this: Nest claims this was already covered by patent #5,224,649, which Honeywell did not disclose to the PTO.