If you don’t know the name Honeywell, you might be surprised to find they’re one of the world’s largest manufacturers of thermostats. They sued upstart Nest over the smart thermostat, citing patent infringement. Now, Nest has shot back, saying that Honeywell is “worse than a patent troll”, with their patents “hopelessly invalid.”
The Verge takes a closer look at Nest’s response to Honeywell, as well as the patent issues at play. Tony Fadell, CEO of Nest, is the former head of Apple’s iPod and iPhone programs, and has dealt with infringement claims before. In response to Honeywell’s lawsuit, they’ve brought on Apple patent counsel Richard Lutton Jr as vice president and general counsel. Lutton believes that Honeywell “jump in and try to scare new entrants back out of the market.”
Fadell says that Honeywell is simply trying to “strangle” Nest, and isn’t even after money, instead wanting to “maintain the status quo.” Nest cites the lack of innovation in the thermostat industry, as well as consumers failing to warm to Honeywell’s programmable models. Nest believes that Honeywell entered “damage control mode” after reviewers found the Nest to be a viable alternative.
Nest goes into great detail surrounding Honeywell’s patent claims, examining each one individually and refuting the assertions that they’re infringing on anything. For example, some of Honeywell's patents require mechanical components, which the Nest thermostat simply doesn’t have. Nest doesn’t have any patents that it can attack Honeywell with, but it does have secure financial backing, which includes Google Ventures. The situation could lead to an legal quagmire, although Tony Fadell says the option of entering discussions with Honeywell to better understand their issue isn’t off the table.