On Monday morning, thermostat giant Honeywell surprised the world by slapping startup Nest, and retailer Best Buy, with a lawsuit over patent infringement for smart thermostat technology. According to the lawsuit document, Honeywell says that “Honeywell — not Nest Labs — is responsible for many of the ideas that Nest Labs touts as revolutionary, and that many features of the Nest Thermostat infringe Honeywell patents.”
Nest sent me its official response this morning which is: “We have not yet reviewed the actual filing, which we learned about this morning through Honeywell’s press release. We will provide comment once we’ve had the opportunity to review it.”
So what technology is Honeywell talking about specifically? Oh, only the some key features of the Nest device including the outer controlling ring dial, the interview questions to start programming the thermostat, tech around being able to control the thermostat via the Internet, the Nest “Time to Temperature” function, and the way that the Nest thermostat diverts small amounts of power from the house’s electrical load to power itself. Here’s the details:
Natural Language Installer Setup for Controller (504): This is essentially the set of questions that programmable thermostats can ask the owner, like “What temperature do you like when the heat is on?” and “What time do you get up in the morning?” and “What time do you go to sleep at night.” Honeywell says it already offers this type of question set for its Prestige 2.0 smart thermostat line and it owns a patent for this.
Controller Interface with Dynamic Schedule Display (948): This pertains to interface features that make it easier to operate a thermostat and reduce energy like Nest’s “time to temperature” function. The time to temperature function displays how long it will take for the room to heat up or cool down to the desired temperature, so that the user isn’t tempted to set the thermostat too high or low to speed up the time to comfort.
Profile Based Method for Deriving a Temperature Setpoint Using a Delta Based on Cross Indexing a Received Price Point Level Signal (958): This patent includes methods for reducing energy costs by controlling a thermostat with information stored in a remote location. This is essentially about controlling a thermostat remotely through the Internet. This seems like a broad one, so I’ll leave it to the legal buffs to make a call on it.
Thermostat with mechanical user interface (789) and Thermostat with Offset Drive (790): These ones discuss placing a non-rotating part near or inside a rotating part, while still enabling the rotating part to control the function. Essentially this is another patent that says the Nest Ring violates Honeywell’s IP.
Power Stealing Control Devices (988): This patent covers the way that the Nest thermostat powers itself by “diverting or skimming” small amounts of charge from the heating and cooling power load. This includes a switch and a circuit to divert power from the home’s electrical system to the thermostat.
And finally, while this isn’t a Honeywell patent, Honeywell includes an image of a Kohler temperature controller for the Mira Platinum Wireless Shower product, which it points out looks “strikingly similar” to the Nest design: