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Nest Labs Calls Honeywell Lawsuit 'Worse Than Patent Troll' 137

Posted by timothy
from the devil-they-know dept.
UnknowingFool writes "Over a year ago, Nest Labs launched the Learning Thermostat. The brainchild of Tony Fadell, former head of Apple's iPod and iPhone division, the Learning Thermostat promised a self-programming and wifi-enabled thermostat that would save energy costs. After some glowing reviews, Nest found itself in a patent infringement lawsuit against Honeywell. Nest responded with multiple claims calling Honeywell 'worse than a patent troll.' Among Nest's claims: Honeywell hid prior art (some on some previous patents that they owned) and inapplicable patents (patent on mechanical potentiometer when Nest's product does not include one). Nest's stance is that Honeywell filed the lawsuits not to extract money but to set back progress so that they can control the industry."
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Nest Labs Calls Honeywell Lawsuit 'Worse Than Patent Troll'

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  • Not a patent troll (Score:5, Informative)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:09PM (#39664107)

    Nest's stance is that Honeywell filed the lawsuits not to extract money but to set back progress so that they can control the industry."

    That would make this a Frivolous lawsuit [wikipedia.org], not a patent troll, and as such the defendant would be subject to compensation.

  • by Zerth (26112) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:17PM (#39664263)

    They hid them simply by not mentioning them to the patent examiner.

    Patent examiners do not do any research towards finding prior art. None. They expect the applicant to have done their research and include any relevant prior patents, since, as you said, patents are publicly available.

  • by nameer (706715) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:19PM (#39664323)

    Duty of disclosure [wikipedia.org] means that if you are aware of relevant prior art when applying for a patent in the US, you are obligated to inform the USPTO about it. Nest is saying that Honeywell should have at least known about its own prior patents, and that not disclosing them violated the duty of disclosure. This is grounds for the patent being found invalid.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:25PM (#39664433)

    Nope, it's a lot worse to have a patent on a device you make, and sue competitors who do not violate the patent in hopes of putting them out of business with legal fees. Patent trolls may have possibly invalid claims and may be extorting, but Honeywell knows it is filing groundless lawsuits in hopes of crushing competition without having to innovate or compete. Patent trolls just want some money, not to destroy you and bury your corpse.

    But is that really what is happening in this case?

    For example, Nest claims that this patent:

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=5736795.PN.&OS=PN/5736795&RS=PN/5736795 [uspto.gov]

    A solid state power switching circuit for alternating current loads, in which operating power for the circuit is diverted from the switched current during power stealing intervals self-synchronized with the alternating current waveform. During periods in which current to the load is commanded, a load current switch is maintained in a low impedance state except for the duration of a short power stealing interval each half-cycle of the supplied alternating current. Self-synchronization is achieved with a current detector which senses whether or not the magnitude of the current diverted during each power stealing interval exceeds a current threshold, and pulse generator logic which shifts the power stealing intervals in time relative to the alternating current waveform in response to the previously sensed current magnitude.

    Is a an expired patent that provides prior art for this one:

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=7476988.PN.&OS=PN/7476988&RS=PN/7476988 [uspto.gov]

    A power stealing system having a switch and a circuit that takes power from equipment to operate control electronics. The system may be such that power stealing occurs while the equipment is not powered to avoid disruption or false signals in the electronics or equipment. The circuit may convey taken power to a storage device. The electronics may be powered by the storage device. The storage device may have a capacitor, a rechargeable battery, a non-chargeable battery, a solar cell, fuel cell, line power, and/or the like.

    I'm no patent attorney, but they look completely different to me. One synchronizes with an AC signal to steal power only during part of the waveform, while the other steals power when the powered device isn't currently using it.

  • by martijnd (148684) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:27PM (#39664477)

    Since I am looking for a new thermostat this sounded like a cool thing. But this review by a fellow European warned me off trying this :

    http://www.bjornsblog.nl/post/20583667249/using-the-nest-smart-thermostat-in-europe-not [bjornsblog.nl]

  • Re:byoo, hyoo (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tharsman (1364603) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:38PM (#39664689)

    One of the claims in the case is that Honeywell patented things that were so obvious that they were simultaneously re-invented within Honeywell itself, by entirely separate and independent teams. These re-inventions that nearly prove the "invention" is too obvious to be patented where hidden and lied to during the patent process to make sure they would be granted.

    At least that's Nest's claim. I do am curious how they got their hands on such internal Honeywell information, but if true this is indeed worse than patent trolling. For lack of a better legal term, I’d say this is fraud against the patent office.

  • by Dishevel (1105119) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:02PM (#39665121)

    They did not say Honeywell was a patent troll. They said they were worse than one.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:07PM (#39665205)

    That's absolutely wrong. Patent examiners generally have a set of patents and some literature in the field they review that they feel covers the key points in the art that they refer to in examining patents. They will also add to that the patents in the field held by the filing company because those patents are important in establishing the expertise of the inventor in field.

    Now what is true is that the examiner won't have a complete view of the literature, but these days there is so much crap published that it is impossible for any individual to possess that knowledge. That's one of the reasons trials are so expensive. Generally that's when the most complete prior art reviews are done.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:27PM (#39665543)

    And thus the claim, "*worse* than a patent troll," not the claim, "a patent troll."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @05:04PM (#39666165)

    I'm in the aerospace industry where Honeywell is a major player, mainly in avionics. The last several years they have stopped to issue new repair/overhaul manuals for their units, prohibiting 3rd party shops performing maintenance on units. Honeywell obviously charges about an extra zero tacked to the end vs. anybody else to perform the same work. Just last week we recieved a copy of a 'repair manual' we requested that spent 50 pages talking about fault checking (we know the unit doesnt work....) and then a few pages with nice illustrations of how to package and ship the unit to Honeywell for repair.

    A few years ago we were selling overhauled 'items' to the government for drones. These items were originally made by honeywell, when they found out they pulled the repair manuals and gave us a call, explaining their size vs our size in the industry and what they could do to us if they so choose.

    Horrible company.

  • the first patent (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @08:58PM (#39668531)

    Not quite the original idea.. that whole "keep exclusive so we have an incentive" came along later.

    Brunelleschi (of Duomo Dome fame) got what was generally considered the first patent in 1421. And it was because it was for a way to move very large blocks of stone on the river, something that could not possibly be hidden as a trade secret. Therefore, he got the local duke (or whatever) to issue a document that said, Ol' Filippo came up with this cool idea, you're all going to see it, but you can't use it.

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