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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





"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson







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