Honeywell sued Nest for patent infringement. Nest is the innovator, started by Tony Fadell of Apple, a friend of mine and the genius behind the iPod design. Tony will do more to create the Smart Home than Honeywell has done, or ever will do; and yet the entrenched incumbent is trying to drive true innovation out of the market. And why? Because Nest is round, and Honeywell used to be?
There is a lot of commentary on Patent Trolls. Andy Kessler had an op-ed in the WSJ proposing some solutions. This suit is not about trolls. Honeywell is very much in the business.
This suit is about crappy patents. Really crappy patents, and a lawsuit that should be thrown out with sanctions. A patent watcher at patenting-art.com writes an entertaining and informative newsletter on patent issue, and he absolutely destroys the Honeywell position. The newsletter is not up on the web, so here it is, below the fold, reprinted with permission.
!20120413 Kudos – Nest Labs attacks Honeywell’s pure crap patents
Nest Laws (www.nestlabs) is a Silicon Valley startup making Apple-ish
thermostats (cute, you want to pet them, caress them, kiss them, and
heck with a curvy re-design, well ….), but let’s face it – in the
end, there isn’t much to thermostat technology: what’s the current
temperature, what’s the temperature you want (the set-point) to set
either directly or remotely, and … well, the current and set-point
temperature. So technologically, a bit boring (and most of the patents
in the field are crap).
But there is still room for cute, and Nest’s thermostats probably will
find some good market share. Which of course pisses off the king of
thermostats, the IBM of thermostats, the dinosaur of thermostats, the
CrappyPoso of thermostat technology – Honeywell, which recently sued
Nest for infringing some of Honeywell’s crap thermostat patents.
Well, Nest has just filed an answer to the Honeywell’s complaint, in
part arguing that Honeywell’s patents are so crappily crap that some
of the invalidiating prior art comes from …… Honeywell. A copy
of the response is at:
Let’s have some fun, and see the outrageousness of Honeywell’s crap.
Page 1: “That ‘blah-looking controller’ on the market today is
very often from Honeywell …
Nice initial knife jab.
Page 2: “Honeywell lost [an earlier] case because the court
found that its intellectual property was invalid.”
Ooooh, nice second initial knife jab – establish the crappiness of
Honeywell’s prior litigation quality. Next Nest sentence:
“Honeywell’s patents in this case … are hopelessly invalid.”
Not just invalid, but hopelessly invalid. By the way Nest, I would not
have sued you for copyright infringement if you had used “crappily
invalid”. You can say, “To quote Greg Aharonian, a brilliant, and some
say very good looking, analyst of patents, these patents are crappily
Why can I/you say this?
“For example, Honeywell’s [asserted] 6,975,958 patent on remotely
controlling temperature setpoints marks no difference from a
prior art Honeywell patent (U.S. 4,657,179) …. Honeywell’s
’988 patent on power stealing is also indistinguishable from
another of its own patents (U.S. 5,736,795) filed earlier.
Yes, stick the knife in deeper – the always classic killer “These patents
are such crap that they violate Rule 56″. A quick look at the above
four patents confirms the strength of these defenses – these two
Honeywell patents are pure crap, and the lawyers involved with both
prosecuting and asserting them should be sanctioned. A brilliant find
of the ’179 patent.
But wait, still on page 2, there’s more knifing:
Moreover, Honeywell’s idea for displaying temperature setpoints
on an LCD inside a rotating ring, show in its ’899 patent in
suite, was implemented years earlier by employees of Volkswagen
who ultimately abandoned their own patent application because
a search found dead-on prior art.
Oooh, nice one. A Honeywell patent so invalidly crap that it is killed
by an earlier patent applciation itself invalid crap. And to drive the
knife all the way in:
And one doesn’t need an exhaustive literature search to conlcude
that Honeywell’s ’504 patent on presenting a user of an HVAC
controller with “complete grammatical sentences” is not worthy
of a patent …
[Note: not true, if the controller can read your mind first]
… though a quick search does tuen up prior U.S. Patent
5,065,813, which confirms that the’504 patent is invalid.
And it is. And they are – the Honeywell patents – all invalicrap – the
type of crap you get when you leave honey out in the sun too long.
… errors in many cases caused by Honeywell’s failure to
tell the Patent Office about its own prior art …
Nice variation on a theme to further the integrity attacks. Judges are
more amenable to a dismissal when there is fraud on the PTO.
The rest of the complaint is the usual Venue/Jurisdiction boilerplate,
an entertaining history of Honeywell’s boring non-innovation and the
valiant, earthshattering breakthroughs of Nest’s fighting technological
villany, and then a detailed patent by patent deconstruction of the
crap that Honeywell asserted.
It is this type of crap assertion that allows critics of the patent system
to be so vocal. That any company, especially one as large as Honeywell,
is filing lawsuits over Rule 56 violating patents is worse than being a
troll – its being an asstroll.
And let’s not forget our good, management incompetent, buddies at the
PTO, who decades into software patents still have made NO FREAKIN
progress with patent quality. There is no more odorous, vile collection
of incompetence than the IT section of the PTO that supports the
patent examination process. That patents issuing even today can be
invalidated in a few minutes with prior issued patents is complete
proof of the PTO’s management incompetence (none of which has changed
under Kappos, who has no interest in patent quality, but then other
than the mushrooms reading PATNEWS, did anyone really think anyone from
IBM would do anything about patent quality at the PTO – seriously?)
Note: the PTO’s inability to deal with its own prior art also
is proof that the third-party prior art regime being set-up
is a complete joke. The PTO doesn’t need more prior art -
it just needs better management.
So hats off to Nest, for an excellent, knife-sticking, not sarcastic
enough, response to Honeywell’s crappy patent infringement lawsuit. If
Honeywell had any pride, it would show some leadership and withdraw the
lawsuit. No company should be allowed to file lawsuits based on Rule 56
Internet Patent News Service – 415-981-0441
Call for patentability/invalidity/opposition/clearance search services
for infotech/commtech/medtech/greentech/business methods
Client of Article One? Whatever they overcharge you over $6000 for an
invalidity search, I will give you a 20% discount – no questions asked.
Email me the special URL – get a bigger discount.
In related news, former Apple patent head honcho Chip Lutton has joined
Nest Labs. Between the prior art and Chip (plus the existing IP staff,
which is already devastating enough based on the quality of their
Response) – Honeywell – DROP IT!!!! NOW.
Apple’s Former Patent Chief Joins Nest Labs
by STEVE LOHR, New York Times, 12 April 2012
The next front in the high-stakes, high-tech patent wars after
No, really, and that helps explain why Nest Labs, a hot Silicon Valley
start-up, has recruited Richard Lutton Jr., Apple’s former chief
intellectual property officer.
Nest announced that Mr. Lutton had joined the company as general counsel
on Thursday morning, an hour or so after it filed a fiery rebuttal to
the patent-infringement suit that Honeywell brought against Nest in
A bit of the back story: Nest is populated with talented recruits from
Apple, Google, Microsoft and other technology companies, and it has
developed a digital ‘learning’ thermostat.
Nest’s leaders speak of the thermostat as a device, and a marketplace,
ripe for disruptive innovation. A smart thermostat that learns and
adjusts to homeowners’ comings and goings can deliver big savings to
consumers, while delivering the environmental payoff of saving energy
and curbing pollution, they say.
Nest introduced its first model last fall to rave reviews and a surge of
orders. In February, Honeywell, the thermostat giant with about half of
the market in the United States, sued Nest in a Federal District Court
Honeywell alleges that the design and functions of Nest=92s thermometer,
from its shape to set-up routines, borrow from other companies and, in
particular, infringe on seven Honeywell patents.
In its lengthy reply on Thursday, Nest asserts that not only is the
start-up not infringing, but that Honeywell’s patents are toothless.
Clearly, the Nest legal strategy is to try to invalidate the Honeywell
“Honeywell’s patents in this case are no good.”, the Nest filing states.
“They are retreads – already invented by others years before.”
The real test of a patent, it is said, comes not in the patent office
but in court. That seems to be the likely path in the Honeywell-Nest
Mr. Lutton said the Honeywell case was a good initial project, but was
not why he joined Nest. The real opportunity, he said, was to “make a
difference in building a truly great company.”, which is applying
advanced technology to the big economic and social problems of energy
Nest, he said, is an innovator, so “the intellectual property strategy
Mr. Lutton, 44, left Apple at the end of last year. He had guided
Apple’s patent policy for a decade, through the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
In 2001, when he began, Apple was filing about 50 patents a year. The
current pace is more than 1,000 a year, he said.
His Apple years were a great experience, he said, but he had started to
“feel like it was time for my next act”.
Nest’s chief executive, Tony Fadell, a former Apple executive who led
the design teams on the iPod and iPhone, was a longtime colleague. Mr.
Fadell got in touch with Mr. Lutton and introduced him to Nest, its
vision and its team. Mr. Lutton has been an adviser to Nest since the
start of the year.
The Honeywell suit has apparently not yet had any impact on Nest’s
business. The start-up is just catching up with back orders and
continues to ramp up production at its contract manufacturers. “We’re
doing great, busting through our numbers.”, Mr. Fadell said, though
the young company has not disclosed sales figures.