updated 11:00 am EDT, Thu April 12, 2012
Nest says Honeywell patents invalid
Nest more formally responded to Honeywell's patent lawsuit both through a rejection of the claims inside as well as by drawing once more on Apple for top executives. The smart thermostat maker claimed both that it doesn't use any of Honeywell's patents but that they were "hopelessly invalid." The arguments were "retreads" of prior art from companies like Volkswagen, obvious technology, or even examples of hiding its own older patents from the USPTO, Nest argued.
The newcomer admitted it bought Honeywell thermostats for comparison, but implied they were being used as a target to beat, not to copy. Honeywell had accused Nest of putting labels on Honeywell boxes referring to that company's patents and thus showing full knowledge of what patents it might be copying. A typical thermostat, and Honeywell's by implication, was likened to a "bland, dumb appliance."
In a jab at its older competitor, Nest reiterated its view that Honeywell was simply trying to hinder a faster-moving competitor. Honeywell had "not kept up with the digital revolution," it said, and had a habit of either suing or acquiring companies to safeguard a monopoly. The establishment firm had been visibly upset at being singled out in the media as the purveyor of aging technology.
To reinforce its counterarguments, Nest on Thursday brought in Richard Lutton as its general counsel and VP. The new executive had experience as Apple's former Chief Patent Counsel and was already an advisor to Nest. He had not only presented to Congress and the FTC in the past but had worked with Nest founder and iPod co-creator Tony Fadell for several years before Fadell created his startup.
The hire both reinforces Nest's reputation as the offshoot of Apple's creative culture and of the newer company's determination to resist the Honeywell lawsuit rather than agree to a settlement.