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Nest Labs to Honeywell: We'll see you in court

Smart-thermostat maker Nest Labs responds to Honeywell's patent infringement suit by claiming Honeywell's broad patents are invalid.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read
Josh Miller/CNET

Nest Labs today fired back at Honeywell over its patent infringement case against Nest, claiming the thermostat giant is using its patent portfolio to stifle innovation.

The company also hired Apple's former chief patent counsel, Richard Lutton Jr., as it plans for a legal fight with Honeywell in the years ahead.

Founded by former successful Apple engineers, Nest Labs started selling its $250 Learning Thermostat last year and quickly sold out amid rave reviews over its design and ability to automatically set schedules.

Honeywell in February filed a suit claiming that Nest infringed on several of its seemingly broad patents. It also filed suit against Learning Thermostat distributor Best Buy.

In its official answer to Honeywell's complaint, filed today in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, Nest argues that Honeywell's patents are "hopelessly invalid."

"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 writes in its answer to Honeywell's charges.

In its suit, Honeywell claims to have patents for what seem like basic functions for an advanced thermostat, such as drawing power from thermostat wiring, presenting information in full sentences to a user, and remote control of temperature set points.

Nest, which put these types of features in its thermostat, argues Honeywell's patents are invalid, expired, or not worthy of patents. In general, the startup tries to cast Honeywell as a dominant thermostat supplier intent on preventing competitors from entering the market.

"Instead of filing lawsuits, Honeywell should use its wealth and resources to bring innovative products to market," Nest chief counsel Lutton said in a statement.

Honeywell has 21 days to respond to Nest's Answer and Counterclaims.