Honeywell slaps Nest Labs with lawsuit over thermostat

Thermostat maker Honeywell alleges Nest Labs has infringed seven thermostat-related patents and is seeking to prevent Nest Labs and Best Buy from continued sales of the Learning Thermostat.

Nest Labs

Honeywell today filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Nest Labs and is seeking to stop sales of Nest Labs' high-profile thermostat.

The lawsuit claims that Nest Labs infringes seven Honeywell patents. The longtime thermostat maker is seeking damages and is trying to prevent Nest Labs and Best Buy, which is also named in the suit, from selling Nest Labs' Learning Thermostat.

Honeywell said Nest infringed patents dealing with user interface control and other advanced features. "We are focused on upholding the integrity of the hard work and development our company has put into its home comfort and residential control technologies," Beth Wozniak, the president of Honeywell Environmental and Combustion Controls, said in a statement.

The text of the suit details a number of Honeywell patented technologies that it claims Nest Labs knowingly infringed. Among them is the ability to program the thermostat by having the consumer answer questions, such as "What temperatures do you like when you are away," shown on the LCD display. Honeywell also claims that Nest infringed its "power stealing" technology, where the thermostat draws charge from electrical wires.

"Nest Labs knew, or should have known, contrary to its marketing campaign, that Honeywell--not Nest Labs--is responsible for many of the ideas that Nest Labs touts as revolutionary, and that many features of the Nest Thermostat infringe Honeywell patents," it said in the suit.

The lawsuit comes as a rude surprise for Nest Labs which has been enjoying praise in the media for its sleek thermostat which was designed by former Apple engineers. The $250 thermostats, which went on sale last fall, are currently sold out.

Nest Labs assembled a team of engineers skilled in consumer electronics design, machine learning, and robotics to make the Learning Thermostat.

Programmable thermostats have traditionally been hard to operate. The Learning Thermostat sets its own schedule based on users' choice of temperature set points over a few days. It can also be operated from a smartphone or computer.

Responding to a request for comment, a Nest Labs representative said: "We have not yet reviewed the actual filing, which we learned about this morning through Honeywell's press release. We will provide comment once we've had the opportunity to review it."

Honeywell's Wozniak told GigaOm last week that the company had developed technology for thermostats that created settings based on users' choice 20 years ago. But it decided that "consumers prefer to control the thermostat, rather than be controlled by the thermostat," she said.

The company makes smart thermostats that can connect to the Internet, allowing consumers to remotely control home temperature settings. Last fall, it announced a deal with Opower to generate energy-efficiency recommendations based on analysis of a home's energy use patterns.

Updated at 9:18 a.m. PT with details from the lawsuit, and at 9:35 a.m. with a response from Nest Labs.