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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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  • by BagOBones (574735) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:02PM (#39663971)

    I thought allowing your products to succeed and preventing others from entering the market is part of the idea of a patent? Unlike a troll that has no product, at least Honeywell has one... Even if their claims do not apply. ;)

  • byoo, hyoo (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:05PM (#39664023)

    If they want to complain, they should be complaining about IP law rather than companies that use it as (apparently) intended.

    And no, Honeywell isn't worse than a patent troll. I might have a teardrop or two of sympathy for Nest, if not for the overblown rhetoric.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:07PM (#39664047)

    I think it depends your values, but I could see where this could be considered worse: Honeywell is trying to prevent progress (so that they might catch up and own the market, like they do for less advanced thermostats), whereas a patent troll is all for progress as long as they get a cut.

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:07PM (#39664061)

    On the other hand, at least a patent troll (presumably) holds a real patent that the other company is infringing upon. Whereas Nest is saying Honeywell is just throwing litigation at them that Honeywell knows they can't win, in the hopes of either e generous settlement or keeping Nest out of the market long enough for Honeywell to reenforce their monopoly.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:12PM (#39664149)

    TFA says:

    and the patents in question should all be invalidated by prior art — even, in some cases, by previous Honeywell patents Nest claims the company hid from the Patent Office.

    How did Honeywell hide previous patents that are, by the very nature of patents, publicly available? If they are expired patents that are relevant in proving prior art, Nest themselves should have found the patents in their own prior-art search. It's clear from the many patents that have been issued despite clear prior art that the patent office themselves does not do a sufficient job of searching for prior art.

    While I do think that Honeywell is trying to shut out the competition, if they have a patent covering the technology that Nest is using, that's well within their rights. And since Honeywell does sell programmable thermostats, I think what they are doing is far less insidious than patent trolls that gather patent portfolios and using them to extract money from companies even though the troll has no intention of ever producing a product that uses the patent.

  • by canajin56 (660655) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:12PM (#39664151)
    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.
  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:28PM (#39664491) Homepage Journal

    To maintain their position and dominance.

    This includes everything from managing the progress of technologies, to profits from the trade in drugs and armaments.

    Law is your enemy. It was made without your representation, and adopted by managing your consent under a false pretense. Always treat it with suspicion.

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:36PM (#39664641) Journal
    The original idea of patents was to foster innovation by encouraging inventors to make their inventions public, receiving a temporary monopoly in return. Historically, patents were considered to be an artificial construct to benefit society, not a natural right of inventors. The idea is that society benefits from the disclosure of non-obvious ideas, and from inventions that are perhaps expensive to implement.

    Now take a look at the patents claimed by Honeywell. It's all obvious crap and design gimmicks, simple intellectual land-grab. Society stands to benefit not one iota by the disclosure of these ideas, and would not have been worse off if Honeywell would have kept them secret. Someone else could have (and has) come up with these "ideas" in the course of designing their own product, without the benefit of knowledge of the details of these patents.

    The granting [of] patents 'inflames cupidity', excites fraud, stimulates men to run after schemes that may enable them to levy a tax on the public, begets disputes and quarrels betwixt inventors, provokes endless lawsuits...The principle of the law from which such consequences flow cannot be just."

    This is from an issue of The Economist... published in 1851.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:37PM (#39664663)

    In which case, Nest could have found them themselves just as easily. Honeywell have been making house temperature and environmental controls for a very long time. Nest would have known this, but didn't bother to see what Honeywell have patented.

    Seeing as the start-up name used to work at Apple, he knows damn well how the system works, very well indeed. This is the company that tries to patent round corners on a screen they don't even make themselves, and the goes out of their way to prevent other companies from selling devices.

    So suck it up Apple zealots. Nest will lose simply because they cannot afford to do what Apple do every day. Bwahahahahha!

  • Re:Backfire (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JamesA (164074) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @03:56PM (#39665013)

    Niche locations like Slashdot consist of the type of early adopters Nest needs to build momentum in the marketplace.

  • by DemonGenius (2247652) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:11PM (#39665269)

    I'm no patent attorney

    There's your answer. The rest is for the judge to decide. If you ask me about my personal opinion, it's very damning and pretty much in line with what Honeywell is known for. However, I'm not the one making the decision here.

    Not being a patent attorney doesn't bar someone from an opinion nor does it make him/her oblivious to what is moral and what isn't. Judges have been known to drop the ball many times in history. In a way, the outcome of this is OUR decision in terms of who we vote into office if we vote in the very people who support the kind of tactics that Honeywell is playing.

    I certainly would never consider the word of a judge as absolute especially if he/she's not on the side of the common person. You should read this comment [slashdot.org], pretty much reiterates my point.

  • by CaptainLugnuts (2594663) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:16PM (#39665353)
    They both are the same thing.

    The first one listed is a specific way of powering a device fed by AC in such a way as not to trip the relay that old style furnaces use for 'call heat.'

    The second one is a generic way that covers all methods of powering a device without unwanted side-effects, like tripping the relay that old style furnaces use for 'call heat.'

    The second patent listed cover the specific AC case. Neither should have been granted a patent as the solution is obvious to an EE who needs to grab a little bit of power for recharging batteries/caps in a thermostat.

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

    by Jeng (926980) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:16PM (#39665359)

    I would imagine they looked at all of Honeywell's patents and the patent applications.

    It is publicly available information, no need for internal documents.

    There is no claim that Honeywell didn't realize they were re-patenting their own inventions, per the link it is thought it was done specifically to fuck over competition.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @04:27PM (#39665545)

    lol @ this guy

    He bought a product intended use and distribution solely in the US and then bitched that it didn't work in Europe. My favourite part:

    Not even when I emailed support with my .nl mail address with a question about displaying degrees Celsius, as is common outside the US. Since support found out I live outside the US they stopped answering my mail.

    He A) assumed they would research the domain in his email address and B) became offended when they notified them that they could not support him, but he insisted, so they ignored him.


He: Let's end it all, bequeathin' our brains to science. She: What?!? Science got enough trouble with their OWN brains. -- Walt Kelly