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Honeywell vs Nest Labs, Round 1, FIGHT!

We've all become accustomed to the growing legal war between Apple and the makers of Android-based devices. When Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone way back in January 2007, he remarked about how revolutionary the device was and clearly noticed that "[Apple] patented the hell out of it”.
 
Once it became clear that the Google Android army wasn't about to go away, Jobs went into attack mode, claiming, "I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
 
This week, a new legal war is brewing, and it's in probably one of the least glamorous -- at least until recently -- market segments: thermostats. Honeywell announced on Monday morning that it was filing a lawsuit against a fresh newcomer to the programmable thermostat market: Nest Labs.
 

Nest Labs Learning Thermostat
 
Nest is a company that was started by Tony Fadell, who just so happens to be one of the “founding fathers" of the original iPod. In addition, Honeywell is also targeting Best Buy which sellls Nest's Learning Thermostat.
 
The following patents are covered in the lawsuit:
 
U.S. Patent No. 7,634,504 – “Natural Language Installer Set Up for Controller”
U.S. Patent No. 7,142,948 – “Controller Interface with Dynamic Schedule Display”
U.S. Patent No. 7,584,899 – “HVAC Controller”
U.S. Patent No. 7,159,789 – “Thermostat with Mechanical User Interface”
U.S. Patent No. 7,159,790 – “Thermostat with Offset Drive”
U.S. Patent No. 7,476,988 – “Power Stealing Control Devices”
U.S. Patent No. 6,975,958 – “Profile Based Method for Deriving a Temperature Setpoint
 
Honeywell claims that it’s been pioneer in the industry for decades and it will not sit idly by while a fresh newcomer infringes upon its patents. “From our iconic ‘round thermostat’ to the first programmable and simple-to-use touch screen thermostats, Honeywell is known for setting the standard in home comfort and energy efficiency," claimed Beth Wozniak, President of Honeywell Environmental and Combustion Controls.
 
“We have more than 20,000 engineers who work hard every single day to solve issues faced by our global customers – innovation is at the heart of what we do at Honeywell. We will continue to protect our intellectual and financial investments in innovation and pursue legal action against those who infringe our patented technologies.”
 
Quite a few of the features seen on the Nest Learning Thermostat indeed have been seen before in previous Honeywell products. For example, the Honeywell Prestige 2.0 Comfort System offers a high-definition display and wireless connectivity that allows you to program the thermostat over the internet via a computer or a smartphone/tablet app (including the ability to control multiple zoned thermostats within a home).
 
Honeywell Prestige 2.0 Comfort System 

However, the Nest Learning Thermostat has a few tricks up its sleeve. As its name implies, Nest's thermostat learns your behavior over time and can adjust temperature settings automatically. A motion sensor can also detect when you are not at home to further reduce energy usage. And there's the one that that's hard to escape when it comes to the Nest Learning Thermostat: its design. While most other thermostats on the market are boring-looking white rectangles with green displays, Nest's thermostat looks rather chic with its round design and circular LCD screen.

For its part, Nest Labs won't be rolling over on its belly to let Honeywell walk over it. Instead, the company issued a statement questioning Honeywell's motives:

We at Nest are proud of creating products that bring true innovation to home efficiency and we are continuing to innovate and bring products to market. The Nest Learning Thermostat is already making a difference, saving customers energy and money. Nest will vigorously defend itself against Honeywell’s patent-attack strategy to stifle thoughtful competition and we have the resources, support and conviction to do so.

Best Buy still has not commented on the lawsuit.

Sources: Honeywell [Press Release], Honeywell Prestige 2.0 Comfort System , The Verge





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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By quiksilvr on 2/9/2012 9:39:54 AM , Rating: 2
But 3 guesses as to what is going to happen to Nest Labs:
1) Settle out of court and shut down
2) Fight stubbornly, lost more money and shut down
3) Stick a Honeywell logo on it.




By Rage187 on 2/9/2012 11:18:13 AM , Rating: 2
4. Get in bed with Apple and wait for Honeywell's to run out of money fighting in court.


By Brandon Hill (blog) on 2/9/2012 11:19:35 AM , Rating: 4
Honeywell... run out of money? Do you realize who they are?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeywell


By Samus on 2/9/2012 12:52:51 PM , Rating: 2
Honeywell is probably bigger than all HVAC controller companies combined.

Main competitors are:

General Electric
White Rodgers (divison of Emerson)
Ranco
Johnson Controls
Taco Controls

However, I am not a fan of Honeywell products, because my experience of their reliability hasn't been good. I've had to replace my mexico-made thermocouples and chinese-made aquastat numerous times on my parents and my own boilers. After learning about other competitors in this market (there aren't many, Honeywell is a monopoly in HVAC controls) I've found White-Rodgers to be a great alternative.

However, most companies that manufacture simple devices such as thermostats, do license patents from Honeywell. I just looked at my Hunter thermostat from Home Depot and it lists a number of Honeywell patents "used with permission under law" in the inside cover.

It sounds like this company didn't do the same, so they may be in trouble trying to go up against the big dog.


By kleinma on 2/9/2012 6:07:16 PM , Rating: 2
On what planet is Honeywell bigger than GE???

Even if the HVAC division is larger, GE is friggin HUGE...

Their revenue is over 4x that of Honeywell..


By michael67 on 2/9/2012 11:34:33 AM , Rating: 2
Do you have any idea how big Honeywell is.

Yeah its no Apple, but its still a solid international, with deep pockets, that can also play the game as longs as needed.


By tng on 2/9/2012 12:48:20 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Yeah its no Apple, but its still a solid international, with deep pockets, that can also play the game as longs as needed.
I would go the other way and say that Apple is no Honeywell. We all know Apple products due to the fact that they are a "gadget" company, but very few people realize all of the things that Honeywell does.

Fram Filters, materials for semiconductor manufacturing, military applications and a dozen other things are just some of the things they make. Chances are that almost all the computers you have ever touched they have helped to make (indirectly).

Of course they are not new to patent wars and also have their fare share of BS patents, but probably have a very large portfolio of patents and a large legal staff that does just patent defense.


By JediJeb on 2/9/2012 11:33:43 AM , Rating: 3
I wonder if Apple will go after them next since it is a "minimalist" thermostat that uses a touch screen interface.


By sprockkets on 2/9/2012 4:04:04 PM , Rating: 2
It isn't a rectangle with rounded corners, so no :)

And in this case Honeywell is famous for having made the round thermostat. If anything I would think they be peeved for making a round thermostat that is adjusted via the ring, since Honeywell makes such a device that does that.


By phxfreddy on 2/10/2012 11:55:22 PM , Rating: 2
Broken patent system.

I mean for the love of christmas.....there ain't nothing new here. Its just new applications.


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
By Gungel on 2/9/2012 9:47:47 AM , Rating: 2
"While most other thermostats on the market are boring-looking white rectangles with green displays, Nest's thermostat looks rather chic with its round design and circular LCD screen."

I would argue that the Nest is even more boring. It looks just like an old button thermostat that my grandma had in her house. And they are still available today.




By Yames on 2/9/2012 11:40:34 AM , Rating: 2
I will agree with you that this is all a matter of opinion, but Grandma's thermostat? Really?


RE: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
By zlandar on 2/9/2012 1:54:25 PM , Rating: 2
I would disagree. It's a minimalist design approach that goes away from the busy display of the Honeywell model. It sure as hell does alot more than your Grandma's thermostat.

Still I can't see paying $250 for this thing. Especially for larger hommes with 2-3 thermostats.


RE: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 2/9/2012 2:02:42 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, we've got two Honeywell 7-day programmable thermostats in our house (one upstairs, one downstairs). I paid I think $30 a piece for them on eBay (brand new sealed in the box).

It's pretty much set and forget. I can't see myself paying $250 x 2.


By Souka on 2/9/2012 6:59:12 PM , Rating: 2
I've lived in two houses with central natural gas heat (no A/C).

I just don't see how this Nest would work as I'm often away for hours in a part of the house that the Nest couldn't possibly detect my motion.

As a result, my house begin to cool as I'm not being detected by the Nest.

So what, I'd have to buy two Nest devices? One for each floor? Hmmm...


New Furnaces Need Big Rectangles
By do_i_neda_name on 2/9/2012 10:17:38 AM , Rating: 4
I'm am currently building a house with two new furnace systems and I think most people underestimate the complexity of some of the top end heating and cooling systems available. The nest thermostat is a good way to trick an older system into acting smarter but does not really have any great features above that of factory supplied thermostats other than the motion sensor and the learning. To take full advantage of each of those features you will need a thermostat in all of the major occupied areas at 250 per thermostat. The Nest does not support modulating furnaces, two stage heat pumps with aux heat, serial communication, and it does not mention about variable speed blowers. These feature are common on new high efficiency systems that Nest cannot come close to controlling.




RE: New Furnaces Need Big Rectangles
By Samus on 2/9/2012 12:59:59 PM , Rating: 3
^This.

It is infact a simple thermostat with a motion sensor and some integrated logic to determine 'peak' efficiency. It can't run certain systems independantly, it can't read complex sensors that would improve its efficiency, and it probably won't reduce energy consumption any better than a properly configured programmable $20 7-day thermostat. It will only work for certain people under very predictable conditions, which defeats its intended purpose.

What if you have a predictable schedule, how is it better than a basic thermostat? What if it isn't located in a high traffic area? What if you have pets? etc.

It's fitting such a producted is marketed through Best Buy.


By sprockkets on 2/9/2012 3:49:31 PM , Rating: 2
And for $250 the stupid thing can't even measure relative humidity, which is just as big as a factor in determining comfort as temperature.

All you need to know is this product was made by an ex apple person in charge of the iphone. Which is why it looks good and has little substance.

Let me clue you all in on a little secret: Programmable thermostats save you little money. For most people's scenarios, any "savings" you had by having a higher temperature during the hot part of the day will be barely mitigated as you lower the temperature back in the evening.


What a joke!
By masamasa on 2/9/2012 4:02:49 PM , Rating: 2
They call this a patent? How many devices in the world are similar in operation to this. Christ, my coffee maker could fall under this patent. Shame on you Honeywell, another pathetic US patent squatter. The US patent issuing office is the joke of the planet for the crap they issue.

---------------

Thermostat with mechanical user interface

Abstract

A thermostat having a thermostat housing and a rotatable selector disposed on the thermostat housing. The rotatable selector adapted to have a range of rotatable positions, where a desired parameter value is identified by the position of the rotatable selector along the range of rotatable positions. The rotatable selector rotates about a rotation axis. A non-rotating member or element, which may at least partially overlap the rotatable selector, may be fixed relative to the thermostat housing via one or more support member(s). The one or more support member(s) may be laterally displaced relative to the rotation axis of the rotatable selector. The non-rotatable member or element may include, for example, a display, a button, an indicator light, a noise making device, a logo, a temperature indicator, and/or any other suitable device or component, as desired.




RE: What a joke!
By sprockkets on 2/9/2012 4:36:04 PM , Rating: 2
Ever look inside an analog honeywell round thermostat? Compare it to a normal one, then you'll understand.

However, using this against a digital thermostat is quite BS, as well as most their other patents leveled against Nest.


RE: What a joke!
By Siki on 2/9/2012 5:37:10 PM , Rating: 2
Most of the people hired by the USPTO to be patent examiners are obviously not qualified. My guess is, due to the more than a years worth of back log on issuing patents, they take just about anyone to try and keep up with the workload.


RE: What a joke!
By Jaybus on 2/10/2012 1:45:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The US patent issuing office is the joke of the planet for the crap they issue.


I used to think so, until I heard of the German "look and feel" filings that Apple is using against Samsung. China is the only nation where patent suits are easily settled. The Chinese company always wins! Simple.


The puns are amazing
By tayb on 2/9/2012 9:41:00 AM , Rating: 3
Honeywell going after the nest. The nest will defend itself!




RE: The puns are amazing
By kattanna on 2/9/2012 11:34:38 AM , Rating: 2
since honeywell makes drones for the military..

maybe we will see a bunch of honey drones on the attack

;>)


Out of Stock
By IceBreakerG on 2/9/2012 3:15:20 PM , Rating: 2
My biggest concern right now is when will Nest get more thermostats back in stock. They've been "out of stock" for at least 2 months, and I haven't heard of when they'll be getting new ones in. I was nearly set to get a Honeywell Prestige HD 7-Day thermostat until I saw the Nest Learning Thermostat. After reading up on it and seeing how it works, I was sold. Unfortunately for me, they're "sold out." The biggest thing I liked about the Nest was one, it's much nicer looking, it does more and it's at least $100 cheaper than the Honeywell model.

Those of you saying how you wouldn't spend $250 on a "thermostat" clearly don't understand how much they affect your utility bills. "Setting and Forgetting" may work, but it's far from efficient. A cheap $30 thermostat just will not get the job done in an efficient manner. That $250 I spend on this thing will pay for itself within a year on my utility costs alone. Considering they have Android/iOS apps to control it as well make it even more of a good investment. Either way though, I just wish Nest would hurry up and get more of these things in stock. It's almost the middle of February, which means it's about to start getting warmer soon, and the sooner I get that thermostat in and installed, the more I can start saving now.




By PAPutzback on 2/9/2012 4:53:15 PM , Rating: 2
From what I am reading the only connection to Apple is that the founder of the "Nest" worked for Apple. Apple itself has no interest in protecting this device. Hopefully a judge throws this crap out or places a small fine on the Nest company. Judges shoudl step up and help American Innovation by squashing all these patent infringements. We are talking about flipping a furnace on and off based on temperature, not a Smartphone, artificial heart or new revolutionary gas engine.




Round design....
By ppardee on 2/9/2012 7:26:05 PM , Rating: 2
I hate to be negative (... actually, I love being negative) about this article, because it is a good one... But Honeywell has been creating round thermostats for ages. Creating a round, programmable one really isn't that revolutionary. Also, the design itself isn't going to save Nest. If they cut out all of their 'stolen' features, it is a classic round thermostat with a fancy display.




Good luck
By overlandpark4me on 2/9/2012 9:26:32 PM , Rating: 2
Honeywell, what a joke. Interesting how they waited for the product to sell out it's production run before they were "outraged". I have a Nest, and yes it is expensive, but I spent 79 on my last one, which coincidentally was a Honeywell. It stopped working after a year. The remote feature alone was a big selling point for me, but after a week, if pretty much had everything ironed out on the learning. Completely happy with this unit, and it consistently gets complements when people are over. This product is a Godsend for people that have vacation homes too.




Patents?
By Qapa on 2/11/2012 5:50:05 AM , Rating: 2
"For example, the Honeywell Prestige 2.0 Comfort System offers a high-definition display and wireless connectivity that allows you to program the thermostat over the internet via a computer or a smartphone/tablet app (including the ability to control multiple zoned thermostats within a home)."

How is it that:
- high-def display
- wireless internet connection

means they have any patents an no one else can make products in that market with those features? high-def displays exist everywhere and so does wifi... if they are 1st to market those inside some market, it cannot grant them exclusiveness for that!!




country of innovation
By altrent2003 on 2/14/2012 3:05:34 PM , Rating: 2
This really shows you that it is impossible for the little guy to come to market with a new product today. It is even more telling since Nest was not founded by a little guy..
The 'free' market is locked down by big companies and their patent portfolio. And if they don't have the patents, they can still sue you until you deplete your capital.
Then if you're still lucky to make a buck, you have to spend it all on healthcare.




Open Source Alternative
By PJBirdhouse on 2/27/2012 8:51:21 PM , Rating: 2
I'm trying to bring an open source thermostat to the public. Its a crowd sourced project -- http://www.rockethub.com/projects/6206-project-bir...




Screw 'em all
By masamasa on 2/9/2012 3:54:54 PM , Rating: 1
These lawsuit hungry companies do nothing except hurt consumers by trying to monopolize the industry. Boycott their products!




"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007













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