Nest Brings In Big Guns For Honeywell Lawsuit

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In January we brought you news of a remarkable new advance in, of all things, thermostat technology. Unveiled at CES 2012, the Nest Learning Thermostat promised to bring your tired old thermostat into the smartphone era. Unfortunately, however, the forces of Big Climate Control had a problem with that: a month after the Nest Learning Thermostate was unveiled at CES, long-time industry leader Honeywell filed a lawsuit accusing Nest of violating several of its patents.

Since the suit was filed in February, though, there has been little news on how the case was going. Today, though, Nest has responded to the suit in force. According to AllThingsD, Nest has hired Richard "Chip" Lutton as Nest's new Vice President and general counsel. Like Nest CEO Tony Fadell, Lutton is a former Apple employee. While Fadell used to be in charge of the iPod and iPhone programs, Lutton however was Apple's head intellectual property lawyer. He spent a decade handling patent litigation for Apple.

Nest has also filed their formal response to Honeywell's suit. You could say that it's "strongly worded." You could also say that a cannon is "kinda loud." Nest's reply is rather lengthy, but at the very least the opening paragraphs, in which Nest "respectfully answers Honeywell's allegations" deserve to be read in full, if only for the "oh, SNAP!" factor. Here are some highlights:

  • This lawsuit is a bald effort by Honeywell to inhibit competition from a promising new company and product in a field that Honeywell has dominated for decades.
  • That "blah-looking controller" on the market today [referenced in reviews of the Learning Thermostat] is very often from Honeywell, which has long dominated the thermostat market, but has yet to generate a device that offers ordinary consumers as much as the Nest Learning Thermostat.
  • Instead of countering product innovation with its own new products, Honeywell has a track record of responding to innovation with lawsuits and overextended claims of intellectual property violations.
  • Nest does not use Honeywell's patents; but even if the patents covered what Honeywell alleges, they are hopelessly invalid.
  • Nest Labs answers Honeywell's Amended Complaint here as a first step in establishing the invalidity and noninfringement of Honeywell's claims, and intends to follow through to correct the errors that led to the issuance of the Honeywell patents (errors in many cases caused by Honeywell's failure to tell the Patent Office about its own prior art), and to stop, and seek compensation for, Honeywell's latest effort to exclude competition rather than face it honestly in the market.
  • Nest's filing goes on to respond to each of Honeywell's claims, either by showing that the Learning Thermostat does not infringe on Honeywell's patents, or that Honeywell ought never to have been granted the relevant patents in the first place (or both). The filing concludes with a request that the court dismiss Honeywell's case, declare that Nest has not infringed on Honeywell's patents, declare several of the relevant patents invalid, and order Honeywell to pay Nest's court costs and attorney fees.

    Honeywell has 21 days to compose their own response to Nest's filing. Honeywell has not yet replied to a request for comment.

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