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Honeywell Vs Nest: When the Establishment Sues Silicon Valley

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the going-for-the-jugular dept.

Patents 228

An anonymous reader writes with this quote from an article at TechCrunch: "Honeywell filed a multi-patent infringement lawsuit against Nest Labs and Best Buy yesterday. The suit alleges that Nest Labs is infringing on seven Honeywell patents. Honeywell is not seeking licensing fees. The consumer electronic conglomerate wants Nest Labs to cease using the technology and is actually looking to collect damages caused by the infringement. Damages? Bull****. This is about killing the competition."

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228 comments

Really? (5, Insightful)

HexaByte (817350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957409)

Patent hold get to license the technology or not, based upon their own preferences. You can't FORCE a company to share it's patents.

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

crawling_chaos (23007) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957481)

Yes you can, you simply change the law. Patents are not inherent to the organization of the universe, and a compulsory license requirement would be in no way unconstitutional.

Re:Really? (3, Funny)

tgd (2822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957529)

Yes you can, you simply change the law. Patents are not inherent to the organization of the universe, and a compulsory license requirement would be in no way unconstitutional.

$1 billion dollars, per usage.

Compulsory license requirement met.

Re:Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957613)

Deal. Oh, we pay on net-2^20000 terms.

Re:Really? (3, Informative)

mepperpint (790350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957705)

Typically compulsory licensing requirements include that the price must be fair. No reasonably human being (and likely no court) would feel that $1 billion dollars per thermostat is a fair licensing price when Honeywell is selling their thermostats for $50-$100 each. Presumably they'd have to sell their thermostats at $1b+ to claim that the patents were worth $1b per unit and seems likely that Honeywell would find themselves out of business pretty quickly if they demanded $1b+ per thermostat.

Re:Really? (-1, Flamebait)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957947)

Typically compulsory licensing requirements include that the price must be fair.

You're obviously a legal genius compared to me, because I'm not even aware that such things exist. I'm sure you'll enlighten us all with numerous examples.

But "fair" is a rather subjective term (when it comes to rents landlords and tenants often have subtly different ideas) so whose definition do we use?

Honeywell would find themselves out of business pretty quickly if they demanded $1b+ per thermostat.

Not if they continue to sell their own for $50.

Re:Really? (4, Informative)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958449)

You're obviously a legal genius compared to me, because I'm not even aware that such things exist. I'm sure you'll enlighten us all with numerous examples.

The GP was referring to RAND requirements. (Reasonable and Non Discriminatory, or something like that). Very common for industry standards organizations that accept patented technologies as part of the standard. If they do, they usual require RAND requirements from the patent holder.

Re:Really? (4, Informative)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958525)

Typically compulsory licensing requirements include that the price must be fair.

You're obviously a legal genius compared to me, because I'm not even aware that such things exist. I'm sure you'll enlighten us all with numerous examples.

Your sarcasm is as obvious as your lack of knowledge.
Here is a USA example [justice.gov] Search for the term "reasonabl" (last character purposely left off so you can hit the variations of the word).
Here is a WIPO Study. [google.com] Check out page 9. It seems to apply to the EU.
Next time, do your own homework. =D

Re:Really? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958535)

For example, if your patent is used in an industry standard, the standards boards require that licensing be available to everyone at a reasonable price. Courts have generally upheld the requirement if patent infringement cases go to trial where a company was simply trying to implement the standard. So yes, it's not a legal requirement that I'm aware of, but it's not unprecedented either.

Re:Really? (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958609)

Typically compulsory licensing requirements include that the price must be fair.

You're obviously a legal genius compared to me, because I'm not even aware that such things exist. I'm sure you'll enlighten us all with numerous examples.

But "fair" is a rather subjective term (when it comes to rents landlords and tenants often have subtly different ideas) so whose definition do we use?

Honeywell would find themselves out of business pretty quickly if they demanded $1b+ per thermostat.

Not if they continue to sell their own for $50.

It would be trivial (although I am not a lawyer so trivial may not mean a lot here) to demonstrate that Honeywell is comfortable "licensing to themselves" for a certain (relatively low) amount, given that these are consumer goods. Certainly it would be well less than the MSRP for any given unit that happens to use said "novel innovation", and it would bring the numbers back down to reality. Similar schemes are used for regulated industries (like DSL service) wherein the vendor cannot charge a reseller more than they feasibly net from the service themselves (so you can't charge $50 per sub to a reseller while you charge $29.95 for the same service direct, including your overhead).

Is it the right thing to do? Who knows. Would it be better than the current patent bullshit that stifles more innovation than it fosters? Probably.

Re:Really? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958333)

you people are something. you want to legislatively game shit to the point of forcing someone to let you use their technology against their own wishes?

yeah you'd like it right up until the point where its your idea being sold at a price dictated to you. then you'd cry and cry, and end up on slashdot trying to spin it as microsofts fault.

shut this fucking site down already; its nothing but an ad-sales vehicle. does it feel like anyone gives a shit here anymore?

Re:Really? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958235)

The language of a compulsory licensing law would require demonstrating that every licensee is charged a fair and equitable price, which cannot be any higher than the price of their own products minus the material and production costs. And that difference would be distributed among the many patents used in a single product in the proportion the company specifies (for all).

I take it you would vote against such a law and allow big corporations to continue to stifle innovation and drag this country down?

Re:Really? (-1, Flamebait)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958409)

I take it you'd vote for such a law, siding with the communists and socialists in an effort to turn us into a third world country, which as we all know would let the terrorists win? Why, exactly, do you hate America?

Wow, I can build stupid rhetorical devices too. Mutually assured destruction, how about that?!

Next time, stick to the facts.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958579)

Too many patents too easy to get, share no unique knowledge, that serve only to tax the community or simply prevent the distribution of goods or services.

Re:Really? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957805)

Parts of copyright law already have this - mechanical licensing, for example. It's relatively straight forward and accessible. Oddly, syncronization rights are not compulsory, nor are master rights. They're not always easy, but it's a hell of a lot better than if they didn't exist.

Re:Really? (0)

DavidQ (1726858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957937)

a compulsory license requirement would be in no way unconstitutional.

I disagree. A compulsory license would contravene Article I and possibly implicate the First Amendment. It is possible that one may pursue a patent not because they wish to produce a product, but because they wish to prevent others from doing so.

For example, let's say you've patented Method A of processing widgets. Now say you discover Method B, which is less efficient but still viable. You might patent Method B even though you have no interest in using it, just to stop your competitors from moving in an using Method B.

Alternatively, imagine that you hate a particular technology, but you happen to know a lot about it. You could patent a new invention in that technology area just to stop others from using it. In this case, mandating that you license the patent could also be considered an abridgment of your freedom of speech. Of course, it be in the public domain once your patent expires, but for a little while you could make your statement.

References:
US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8:
"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;" (emphasis added)
First Amendment, in relevant part:
"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech..."

Re:Really? (2)

tilante (2547392) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958049)

Let me fix that for you:

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

Allowing someone to patent an invention and then prevent anyone else from using it, while at the same time not using it themselves, does nothing to "promote the progress" of science and useful arts.

As for freedom of speech, your freedom of speech does not include the right to force others not to say something.

Re:Really? (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958201)

Let me fix that for you:

Oh I like this game.

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

Re:Really? (1)

Americano (920576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958453)

Here, let me try:

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Re:Really? (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958433)

Allowing someone to patent an invention and then prevent anyone else from using it, while at the same time not using it themselves, does nothing to "promote the progress" of science and useful arts.

Not necessarily. Without patents, it is conceivable (some might say likely) that a given invention would never get published, but rather be kept as trade secrets in case they are useful later. Given a truly non-obvious invention, there is a benefit to society to see it published and its means of building/operating carefully documented. With the patent system, the idea is that everything is public and in return the company has some protection against competitors using the invention against them even if they themselves don't use it.

The real problem always, to me, boils down to the "obvious to a practitioner of the art" test. If the bar on that were much higher-- let's say such that only 1 out of 10 of today's patents would pass muster-- I think the anti-patent rhetoric would cool to imperceptible levels.

Re:Really? (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958063)

So then.
On First Amendment grounds....
Copyright is illegal.

Re:Really? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958331)

Maybe. Copyright does not prevent you from making your own art. Then you have the right to express it, yourself. Copyright law does have some flaw, and is routinely abused by big corporations (which abuse a LOT of laws, routinely). But its fundamental basis is still valid, to protect a specific art. Freedom of speech protects AN expression of an idea. Copyright doesn't apply to the idea.

Re:Really? (2)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958101)

Of course, there's the qualifier you breezed right over: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts...." Although (AFAIK) the Supreme Court has never entertained a challenge based upon the premise that a given law *impedes* progress, it's not inconceivable. The catch is, the Supreme Court can't be forced to hear a case, and it's unlikely to do so unless we someday end up with a retired patent lawyer on the bench.

Re:Really? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958291)

Preventing others from doing so is not the basis of patent laws. The basis is to promote innovation for the national good. At one time the law scheme we had did an adequate job of that. But that was before we had all these too big to fail corporations that act as economic bullies. Time to change the law. But the basis, for improving our nation, remains the proper basis for how the laws should change.

Re:Really? (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958571)

The SCOTUS has ruled over and over that congress has a lot of leeway in their interpretation of the copyright clause. I'm sure there would be no problem if they decided the exclusive right for patents would only last, say 1 year, and then they could require either a compulsory license or the option of abandoning the patent protection entirely. I mean they've basically said that "limited time" could be "forever minus one day", or that they could continue to retroactively expand copyright term over and over. So based on that precedent, I'm sure any challenge to, say, a patent term of 6 months or even 1 would necessarily fail.

Re:Really? (4, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957497)

Isn't it the dream of every company to kill the competition? And isn't the point of patents controlling your innovations, including limiting your competition from using them? It seems to me they're taking a fairly normal and ethic (as far as businesses are ethical these days) route to the whole thing. It's bad business for everyone if companies believe they can get away with infringing patents and then just pay for licensing if they get caught.

Re:Really? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957557)

Isn't it the dream of every company to kill the competition?

I think you mean "blow the competition away."

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957499)

I agree. That's the point of patents.. you have a time limited exclusivity to the invention. Too bad so sad.

But the patents can be BS (5, Informative)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957819)

TFS doesn't say (probably to drive more views to the linked page) but this is all about thermostats.

Some of the patents include "thermostat is round and can be rotated" [google.com], "thermostat asks the user questions" [google.com], and stuff like that. Considering how skeptical many people are about Apple's "design patents" on "rounded rectangles with touch screens", I would be skeptical of some of these as well.

Now some of the other patents, like leeching power off of the main system, may hold up under more scrutiny (though this technique has been in wide use throughout the industry; I recall two-wire sensors that derive their power parasitically from the data line, and if the patent covers similar technology then it should be revoked).

Also, FYI, you can compel some patents to be licensed. FRAND patents, for instance; Samsung got into hot water when they tried to use FRAND patents as a weapon against Apple.

IMO, you shouldn't be able to use patents to shut down competitors. Especially competitors that outsmarted you by building a better product than you could.

Re:But the patents can be BS (0)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957847)

Now some of the other patents, like leeching power off of the main system, may hold up under more scrutiny (though this technique has been in wide use throughout the industry; I recall two-wire sensors that derive their power parasitically from the data line, and if the patent covers similar technology then it should be revoked).

Considering Honeywell is in "the industry", maybe it's their sensors that derive their power parasitically, and therefore it shouldn't be revoked.

Re:But the patents can be BS (4, Insightful)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957973)

>.> Reading comprehension fail?

Honeywell's thermostat is parasitically powered, not their sensors. I'm saying the general technique - drawing power from other devices over e.g. data lines - is obvious to anyone skilled in the art of circuitry.

Here's a Maxim DS18S20 1-wire parasite-powered digital thermometer chip. http://www.maxim-ic.com/datasheet/index.mvp/id/2815 [maxim-ic.com]

Arduino parasitic power. http://www.arduino.cc/playground/Learning/OneWire [arduino.cc]

Hell. RFID chips derives power parasitically from the transmitter.

Re:But the patents can be BS (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958009)

that would be chipmakers, like philips, who make i2c and other serial controlled devices.

honeywell is an integrator. they never designed these concepts.

its laughable if it wasn't such a shame.

Re:But the patents can be BS (2)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958059)

Some of the patents include "thermostat is round and can be rotated"

How could have they possibly applied for this patent in 2004, when they've produced round thermostats with rotating setpoint adjustments since just about forever?

Re:Really? (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957831)

No you can't, and that's about one third of all that's wrong with the patent system of all the countries I know of.

Patents exist to REWARD them for sharing their patents, through licensing, and then land their inventions in the public domain.

That they don't even TRY to license them shows their contempt for the very reason they're allowed to have a patent in the first place.

It might be an idea to have an arbitrage type of system, where the patents expire unless the patent-holder signs up new licensees, until he's collecting licenses from everyone using his invention(might still be a small group of people), or else he's found culpable, and his patent gets cancelled.

The people are allowing that monopoly for a reason, 17 years is a very long time for most anything in tech now.

Patents should be shortened, or have to be actively maintained, like copyrights, or vest automatically.

Not true (1)

Dogbertius (1333565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957833)

Compulsory licensing agreements exist in the United States in a number of industries. Just a few include "West Publishing citations to court opinions", "U.S. v. 3D Systems", "US v. Miller Industries", "Dell Corporation VL Bus patents".

These compulsory licenses were put in place to prevent extremely anti-competitive behavior. Just like Motorola's latest suit against Apple, demanding 2.25% of all iPad sales. Motorola can't just demand a billion dollars per patent infringement case and clean out Apple by setting absurdly high values. In the US, it is very much possible for anti-trust lawyers to step in and force a deal for a "reasonable" patent pricing deal.

If a submarine patent were written that would effectively block every single phone manufacturer from producing phones unless they pay exorbitant fees, the average consumer would suffer considerably. These compulsory licensing deals are put in place to prevent established companies from being forced out of the market due to a single patent.

US Government? National Security? (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957957)

What if a company patents something that is "vital to the security of the country," like a "Terrorist-Find-O-Matic?" Can't the government say, "tough shit, we need that?"

I was about to start working on my "Crotch-Groping-O-Matic" device, but if the TSA folks are going to just steal it from me, I won't bother.

Re:Really? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958021)

Patent hold get to license the technology or not, based upon their own preferences. You can't FORCE a company to share it's patents.

As it happens, not only can you, a great many of the patent law systems of the world do to some degree or another(it seems to be even more common with copyrights; but also happens with patents). All Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property signatories(1883-Present) possesses the right to create compulsory licenses under certain circumstances.

In the specifically US context, it's worth noting that patents and copyrights are listed as something Congress may create(but is not in any way obligated to) and specifies only that these be of limited duration. They aren't treated at all as though they belong in the 'natural rights' set.

As a matter of fact, I find it rather unlikely that Nest has a chance of getting a compulsory license; but that's just a matter of particular law, not some sort of foundational principle of jurisprudence: the only place you'd really see it articulated would be by somebody who has been inculcated with both historical natural-law justification of property and quite contemporary 'intellectual property' maximalism. Not a forbidden position; but actually quite an atypical one...

Re:Really? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958117)

The question is whether the patents are valid. Asking questions in English is not a non-obvious innovation. There are centuries of prior art. Buffering power is not a non-obvious innovation. The idea of buffering a resource that is delivered in quantities smaller than are needed for a specific application goes back to the Romans buffering their water supply. A round control is not an original innovation. Round nobs have been used to control machines since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

Our patent system is so screwed. It should be hard to get a patent, not easy. The default should be to reject a patent application unless the applicant demonstrates clearly that this invention is a non-obvious, new innovation.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958319)

Patent hold get to license the technology or not, based upon their own preferences. You can't FORCE a company to share it's patents.

I see what you did there.

It's a moot point to argue if a company must share it's patents, or worst case it's a red herring which distracts from the core issues.

Patents are an artificial construct, and it seems wrong to FORCE me to recognize and accept your alleged patent.
As a taxpayer and citizen, I resent your implied threat of violence in order to limit my market choices and protect your crony capitalism.

this doesn't seem like a classic troll move (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957489)

This looks like a case where a company successfully innovated in the marketplace, and then took out patents to help secure their position.

The position adopted by the author of TFA was not subtle and, in my view, does not help the discussion.

Re:this doesn't seem like a classic troll move (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958011)

The article summary, however, is a classic troll move.

Re:this doesn't seem like a classic troll move (1)

MagikSlinger (259969) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958027)

This looks like a case where a company successfully innovated in the marketplace, and then took out patents to help secure their position.

The position adopted by the author of TFA was not subtle and, in my view, does not help the discussion.

Yes, that's the impression I got too. Although Honeywell's behavior suggests they want Nest out of the market entirely. For starters, they didn't serve papers to Nest -- Nest found out via the press release from Honeywell. Also, Honeywell wants Nest to simply cease & desist. I wish these kinds of lawsuits never happen -- a legitimate claim being used to obliterate a true innovator. If I was Honeywell, I would have used Coase's theorem [wikipedia.org] to negotiate with Nest, pointing out that Honeywell was in the right, but they should work together to find a mutually beneficial outcome.

Re:this doesn't seem like a classic troll move (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958351)

case where a company successfully innovated in the marketplace

Since when is voice control a *novel concept* anymore? Voice control has been around before Honeywell filed the thermostat patent. Equivalent to the patent dross of companies somehow connecting their product to the internet.

the thing is (2)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957507)

if you treat the nest as a computer -- which it is -- one that happens to be hooked up to your HVAC, most of the patents involved are not patent worthy.

Re:the thing is (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957643)

They are indeed extremely lame-looking patents, even by the usual standards of patent lameness. Several of them are an attempt to patent early-20th-century button/knob technology, and several others are an attempt to patent standard 1930s-50s control theory. Oh, except with the phrase "used in a thermostat" or "in an HVAC system" added, which makes it totally novel.

One of the patents is for this earthshattering invention: a system that can change from an initial temperature to a second temperature, while indicating on a display an ETA for reaching the target temperature.

Another one is for this: a display with a circular housing over it, where rotating the housing, by means of a potentiometer to which it is attached, changes an HVAC system parameter.

And yet another one is this: a display that asks a user questions in natural language, displays a menu of possible responses (such as "yes" and "no") among which the user may select, and then adjusts an HVAC system's configuration as a result of the user's response.

Re:the thing is (2)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957713)

have they sued car manufacturers, or do they have different patents that have "in a car" plastered on them.

Re:the thing is (0)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957755)

From a "lameness" standpoint think about it this way. If all of these ideas were so "lame" then why did Nest decide to incorporate all of these features. And if they are so obvious, why wasn't it done previously?

Re:the thing is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958051)

Simple. They incorporated these ideas because they were obvious choices during design. They have all been done previously, except they are so obvious, nobody ever thought to publish the fact.

If you tie your shoes with a string made out of a new kind of material is that a patent worthy endeavour that you will publish, or is that an obvious thing to do that you think no-one else would care about?

Re:the thing is (3, Insightful)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958137)

You are confusing the "lameness" of the patent with the "lameness" of the feature.

Re:the thing is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958555)

You appear unable to comprehend what you are reading/hearing correctly, a cognitive deficit I'm convinced is at the root of Conservatism. Nobody suggested that the features were lame. What is lame is the patents. The ideas and concepts are completely obvious and have centuries of prior art. Placing a phrase about thermostats into a sentence with these concepts does not make a new, non-obvious invention.

Re:the thing is (4, Funny)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957835)

Personally, I liked the one about 'diverting' power from the home's electrical system to power the thermostat. You mean like every electrical appliance in existence?

Re:the thing is (3, Insightful)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958459)

Actually, that one's not quite as ridiculous as it sounds, assuming the technology isn't much different from home thermostats. AFAIK, home thermostats in an old home with only a furnace might have as few as two wires: one that's approximately 24Vac, and one that gets connected to it whenever the furnace should turn on. A newer home with an air conditioner might have two or more additional contacts for the a/c compressor & blower, and possibly 24vac of its own. I believe that most use battery power for the digital logic, but use the 24vac to energize the relay coils. I believe most home digital thermostats were historically battery-powered because the logic doesn't draw much power, and because it prevented the programming from getting lost whenever the power were shut off at the breaker.

Fast forward to 2012. For literally a few cents, you can buy an 8-bit microcontroller with real eeprom and flash, and a linear power supply to convert 24vac into 5vdc is far from being rocket science. Instead of relying upon continuous power to keep the settings alive, you can just write them to flash, and read them back when power gets restored. I believe this is more or less the nature of their patent.

Assuming I'm mostly right, this is a pretty lame patent. Unfortunately, it probably does meet the technical standards for being granted. I can only assume that Honeywell grabbed it because the market for home thermostats has traditionally been so small, few other companies have even bothered with it (I mean, let's be honest... how often do most people REALLY replace their thermostats?), so nobody else even thought about filing a patent for it first.

Re:the thing is (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957783)

Don't you remember that everything one can do with a computer is magically novel and patent worthy each time you change the context even slightly?

It was patent-worthy when "on a mainframe" was appended(though much of that has expired by now, so it isn't a matter of significant practical concern)
It was again patent-worthy when done on a PC.
You'd better fucking believe that doing it "on the internet" made it patent-worthy all over again and then some.
On a 'smartphone'. Oh you know it, and twice as shiny...

Re:the thing is (1)

Quantus347 (1220456) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957797)

Such is the case all technology. Cell phone carriers can still charge per message for a truncated text message, when the same device and infrastructure and contract allows you to send hundreds and thousands of times the data in email systems and streaming at a fraction of the cost.

Get a Nest (4, Interesting)

Myopic (18616) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957595)

I have a Nest and it is awesome. Don't buy it because it will save you money (it may reduce your montly cost a little, but it'll take a while to make up for the cost of the device), rather buy it because it is a fun toy. It's very well implemented, looks nice, the software is great, and you can do cool stuff like connect to it from your pod.

Fuck Honeywell. If their patents have been violated, then where are their Nest-like products? I smell another patent troll.

Re:Get a Nest (3, Interesting)

Quantus347 (1220456) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957725)

In the industrial sector, which is their primary business and one where they have been leading innovation in for decades. They have these types of products, but they are geared toward serious use and not being a "fun toy" and so are priced above the average consumer level.

The fact is Honeywell has been making computer controlled systems like this for decades. Just because some little knockoff came along years later and packaged up a cheap version for consumers does not mean they have the right to infringe on legitimate proprietary designs. Which if you read the article include, specific control methods, the internal mechanism used as the actual thermostat, as well as some of the circuitry design used for power management.

Re:Get a Nest (1)

tbannist (230135) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957871)

I don't know. It seems like a number of the Patents fall into the category of "Blindly obvious" and "overly broad". I mean really? They have a patent on using sentences on a screen on a thermostat?

It looks like Nest's real crime is making a inexpensive competitor to Honeywell's expensive proprietary technology. To someone who knows very little about the situation, it looks like Honeywell has been bilking it's higher end customers and using patents to generate monopoly rents. How come Honeywell doesn't have a product like the Nest thermostat? Most thermostats I've seen have really terrible interfaces.

Re:Get a Nest (0)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957905)

It looks like Nest's real crime is making a inexpensive competitor to Honeywell's expensive proprietary technology

Nest $249
Honeywell Prestige $218

So who is more inexpensive?

Re:Get a Nest (4, Insightful)

Myopic (18616) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958005)

You just compared a learning thermostat to a programmable thermostat. That leads me to this question:

Nest $249
Oranges $1.29/pound

So who is more expensive?

re: industrial sector (1)

King_TJ (85913) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957995)

I'd say it's ALSO a fact that the only products Honeywell has been offering consumers are basic, dumb thermostats or overpriced digital models with very basic functionality and a high price-tag that you're presumably supposed to pay to get that respected Honeywell name badge on the front.

If there are issues over some specifics, such as the particular control mechanism used, violating Honeywell patents? Then fine ... let them demand licensing fees for those items and move on. The fact Honeywell hasn't done this and instead, demands the product be pulled from the market and damages collected (before most people have even had the chance to BUY one!) speaks volumes about their true concerns here.

The Nest is almost impossible to think of as a "cheap knockoff" of anything Honeywell sells, consumer OR industrial. The Nest is designed very much along the same lines as the original Apple iPod ... meant to be very easy to use, with a simplified UI that encourages its use instead of intimidating a person into leaving it alone.

Your argument here sounds a bit like an architect who primarily designs skyscrapers (with a little bit of side work sketching up basic 1 bedroom shotgun shacks) claiming another architect designing elegant 2 story luxury homes must cease and desist, because he's clearly violated a number of design concepts used in those skyscrapers (and probably not so much in the shotgun shacks, but wants you to note he's familiar with those low-end products too).

Re:Get a Nest (1)

jbengt (874751) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958285)

In the industrial sector, which is their primary business and one where they have been leading innovation in for decades.

Honeywell is one of the best-known brand names in the controls industry, mostly due to their past dominance. In the last couple of decades they have not been what you could call leading or innovating. (IMHO, anyway)

Re:Get a Nest (1)

tragedy (27079) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958501)

I have a round thermostat on my wall. It's been there since the 1970's or earlier as far as I can tell. Clearly longer than any patents last. It uses a coiled bi-metallic strip and a mercury switch to operate. I am not an Electrical Engineer (I have some experience with it as a hobby and from where it overlapped with the Computer Science courses I took at University and even a small amount of professional experience doing such work) and don't really qualify as someone "skilled in the art". Nevertheless, if someone came to me and said "we want to adapt this familiar, no-longer patented design to modern off-the-shelf technology using a digital thermometer" I would say put a micro-controller in it and hook up a calibrated potentiometer to figure out where the dial is turned to and throw a screen in the target price range into the thing to display the current temperature and target temperature and maybe other things like humidity if desired. Now, the method of detecting where the dial is turned doesn't have to be a potentiometer, it's just the easiest off the shelf way to do it. It could also be a magnetic sensor, or an optical sensor like in an opto-mechanical mouse or a modern optical mouse. Or it could even be a custom circular set of contacts, 1 for each degree of temperature in the devices range, otherwise, I'm sure there are dozens or even hundreds and thousands of pre-existing, off the shelf devices for telling you the position of a rotary dial. Tying one of those into a classic thermostat design is not worthy of a patent. It's just not an invention. Neither are any of these other inventions listed. Time to reach desired temperature is not an invention, it's an item off a wishlist, the obstacle to developing it as a commercial product is availability of the paltry computing power and long-term storage needed for it in a simple device like a thermostat. How to actually accomplish it with those computing resources is trivial. Any eighth-grader of reasonable intelligence (and without some sort of antipathy towards thinking) has the knowledge of statistics to figure out an algorithm to do it.

As for the other patents involved, such as the "natural language" patent, they're garbage. The hard parts are interpreting the language in the first place, and those parts surely aren't Honeywell's invention. It's well understood that, once you have such technology, you can give instructions to home automation devices: "vacuum the floors tomorrow while no-one is home or by five P.M. even if someone is home", "Turn the lights on in the front hallway at six pm tomorrow", "turn on the heat every day by six or when the garage door is opened, whichever comes first", etc., etc. This stuff has been going on in science fiction for longer than there have even been electronic computers that might be able to interpret the commands. That part of the "invention" is already invented and has just been waiting for the computers to get good enough at following along with basic language.

Re:Get a Nest (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957869)

I'm assuming that the Nest and some Institutional/industrial networked HVAC controller made by Honeywell(probably one where 'web based' still means "serves a java applet that requires a JVM five years old to run, after authentication in plaintext with a password of no more than six characters, for an extra license fee we'll turn on the SNMPv1 interface..." both implement some concepts that would be familiar to anybody who has perused a control theory textbook and/or some things that programmers building network applications have forgotten that they remember...

I'm guessing that this isn't exactly a 'look and feel' lawsuit(though the iconic round, bimetallic spring, mercury tilt switch design was Honeywell, that's sort of their last brush with being on the leading edge of intuitive thermostat interfaces...)

Damages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957607)

Damages? Bull****. This is about killing the competition.

Ummm.... I know this may not be a popular view around here (and my comment doesn't reflect any love of the patent system on my part), but what exactly IS competition, if not damaging?

Re:Damages? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957895)

If we're going to take THAT broad a view of damages, then Honeywell owes me money for 'damages'. They have, after all, abused the patent system and now the taxpayer funded courts.

Re:Damages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957925)

Competition might be damaging, to the market participants, but the whole interest of competition is for the consumers, who are in no way damaged by it.

Thanks, Honeywell! (5, Funny)

mepperpint (790350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957617)

I had no idea these Nest Thermostats existed, but they look awesome. Now that I know about them I can go out and buy one and enjoy an increased quality of life. Thanks, Honeywell, for bringing them to my attention!

Re:Thanks, Honeywell! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957709)

You're welcome, mepperpint. You'll repay us nicely once we get the courts to give us all of Nest's earnings, a part of which will evidently come from you.

--
Honeywell

Damages? Bull****. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957633)

Hummmm funny how because this is not apple peoples tone changes . If this was apple trying to screw another company it would be life is tough stop whinging and pay up but not this one

Good luck to Nest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957655)

I would bet a small amount of money that their original business plan has this risk addressed in some way. Whether they will prevail or not is left to be seen.

To anyone that has purchased a cheap consumer thermostat, the need or market for improvement is absolutely obvious and the IP thicket is pretty much the only conceivable problem.

Make no mistake, the patent system that has morphed into an easy tool for established corporations to control markets is working exactly as intended. If you believe the current system is morally and economically sound, then Nest is clearly in the wrong here. Whatever.

Re:Good luck to Nest (1)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957763)

Concur! Geez the lame bottom-of-the-market-sucking thermostat they included in my freaking expensive-as-Hell house is so cheap looking, under-brained, and just plain unconsidered as to be insulting. Honeywell did a lousy job innovating, and thus allowed a market opening in a market they OWNed for decades. I figure they deserve what they get.

Go Nest!

Re:Good luck to Nest (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957877)

You're kidding right? Honeywell has been innovating in the thermostat area. They have thermostats priced from $5 all the way up to $200 for their top of the line Prestige model....which does the same things that the Nest does...for cheaper. Yeah, maybe it's not brushed metal and glass, but it doesnt look "ugly".

Re:Good luck to Nest (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957821)

To anyone that has purchased a cheap consumer thermostat, the need or market for improvement is absolutely obvious and the IP thicket is pretty much the only conceivable problem.

The Nest is definitely not "cheap". In fact, it costs more than Honeywell's Prestige thermostat, which does all of the same things that the Nest does (which is what Honeywell has patents on). Your problem is in buying a "cheap" thermostat. The products are there, just not at your price point, and the Nest definitely doesn't fit into your price point.

Re:Good luck to Nest (1)

BenLeeImp (1347831) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958515)

To anyone that has purchased a cheap consumer thermostat, the need or market for improvement is absolutely obvious and the IP thicket is pretty much the only conceivable problem.

The Nest is definitely not "cheap". In fact, it costs more than Honeywell's Prestige thermostat, which does all of the same things that the Nest does (which is what Honeywell has patents on). Your problem is in buying a "cheap" thermostat. The products are there, just not at your price point, and the Nest definitely doesn't fit into your price point.

I believe the Nest attempts to learn your habits, which the Prestige does not do. I'm not entirely certain that this is a useful feature, mind you, as I figure most people's schedules are regular enough to just program in. However, the point remains that the functionality is somewhat different.

This is about killing competition. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957667)

That is the purpose of each and every patent. That is the point of them. They do not grant one the right to produce something, they grant one the right to stop others from producing something, thus killing competition, for a limited time. The original poster does not seem to understand this simple fact.

Common technology in large HVAC systems (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957675)

Large buildings already have control systems that do this, and Honeywell manufactures many of them.

The "Nest" device may well be mostly hype. (What is "far-field motion detection", anyway?) There's only so much you can do with input from one location and nothing but on/off control over heating and cooling.

Compare the EcoBee [ecobee.com], which does the same job, and probably better. EcoBee can handle remote sensors for outdoor air temperature. It measures humidity, which "Next" doesn't claim to do. It can be set up to control fans and dampers. (One of the biggest wins in HVAC management is figuring out how much air to take from outside and how much to recirculate.)

Nest is a status symbol, not a HVAC management system. It looks cool. It creates the illusion that it's doing something "green". It probably helps a little.

Re:Common technology in large HVAC systems (1)

Cyclopedian (163375) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957863)

Large buildings already have control systems that do this, and Honeywell manufactures many of them.

The "Nest" device may well be mostly hype. (What is "far-field motion detection", anyway?) There's only so much you can do with input from one location and nothing but on/off control over heating and cooling.

Compare the EcoBee [ecobee.com], which does the same job, and probably better. EcoBee can handle remote sensors for outdoor air temperature. It measures humidity, which "Next" doesn't claim to do. It can be set up to control fans and dampers. (One of the biggest wins in HVAC management is figuring out how much air to take from outside and how much to recirculate.)

Nest is a status symbol, not a HVAC management system. It looks cool. It creates the illusion that it's doing something "green". It probably helps a little.

Look at the EcoBee, and without reading any instructions or manual, attempt to change the temperature lower or higher. Do those "menu" type buttons do that job? Or is it a touch screen? Those are not immediately obvious, and most of the population would say the same thing.

Nest is an attempt at making the interface in such a way that the usage is obvious to most of the population without looking it up in a manual. Right now, that costs extra, but maybe not for long.

Re:Common technology in large HVAC systems (1)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958053)

Nest is a status symbol,

Because being able to say you are able to afford a $250 thermostast gives you greater status bragging rights than getting a $700 phone or a $100k car!

bayweb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958115)

The bayweb thermostat does all of this as well, and in my mind is much easier to get set up. and MUCH cheaper!

It is a little strange to the missus, but she gets by because the control pad is simple. she got a little mad when i set limits though...

Re:Common technology in large HVAC systems (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958233)

Nest is a status symbol, not a HVAC management system. It looks cool. It creates the illusion that it's doing something "green". It probably helps a little.

It was produced by an ex-Apple employee's startup, after all...

A bit of a contradiction (1, Insightful)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957753)

Nest keeps being referred to as novel and innovative in the article and honeywell as the old giant, yet how can that really be when they clearly infringed on patents that honeywell previously had. Honeywell was clearly more novel and innovative before Nest even existed.

Re:A bit of a contradiction (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958057)

Its simple, like Apple Nest uses brushed aluminium and glass while the Honeywell Prestige (which does the same and more) costs less but is made out of white plastic. Glass, aluminum & other peoples technology is innovative!

It doesn't do what it's designed for... (1)

HerculesMO (693085) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958041)

The whole purpose of the Nest is to "learn" your habits and then figure out how to save you energy. Most reports say that users don't like that feature because it's very poor, so they opt instead to manually control it. They just like the "look".

Needless to say it's being developed and sold by a guy who made the iPod, and Apple is famous for selling devices at a premium that just "look nice."

I wanted to like the device but if it doesn't really save me money, while Ecobee and the Honeywell Prestige systems do, then it's pointless to buy.

"This is about killing the competition." (3, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958127)

No shit. What the hell do you think patents are for? They may or may not be socially desireable, but don't lose sight of the fact that they are government-granted monopolies. Preventing competition is what they are all about (Licensees are not competitors. They are customers.)

Re:"This is about killing the competition." (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958445)

They are government granted monopolies, granted to enrich the holder, for the purpose of promoting the useful arts and sciences. If patents are not serving the public, then there is no point to grant one. Patents are a NICETY we extend, not a natural Creator-given right.

Probably not too much of an issue (2)

robertchin (66419) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958177)

Let's see:
Patent number: 5482209
Filing date: Jun 1, 1994
Issue date: Jan 9, 1996

So patents filed before June 2005 the patent term is the longer of 20 years from the filing date or 17 years from the issue date. Check.
Expiration is Jan 9, 2014, based on 20 years from the filing date.

Let the Lawsuit drag on for two years until the patent expires, so as long as they don't get an injunction they will just pay some damages and presumably be on their way.

Such fancy thermostats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958213)

Wheres the digital toilet handle with a color touchscreen that lets me set the time and duration of my flushes? Maybe install Siri, TP Edition(tm) on it for voice activation.

Killing the Competition? Its a patent! (1)

AlienSexist (686923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958249)

If it is their patent, filed and awarded fair-and-square then they have a government issued, temporary license for a monopoly on that technology as a reward for their invention. The damages would be lost profits that the inventors were deprived of for the unauthorized use of the invention. If the technology is so useful then competitors must either license it (if inventor allows it), buy the patent, spend their own R&D to develop their own alternative, wait for the patent to expire, or buy the company that owns the patent. That's fair.

Who cares if it is "establishment" or not. What if it were Joe Brown with his patented nose hair trimmer? Would he be wrong in asserting his rights because it "kills competition?" I know it is fashionable to bash big business, but c'mon. You can't play favorites here, its the law and applies equally.

What about a transformer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958489)

At first I was reluctant to believe the story, but one of their patents is a a method of converting power from the house for use in the device. This is called a transformer. They did not invent this, and it has been around for decades before Honeywell ever became a company.

Another one "A thermostats inner design", which to me doesn't make much sense. X10 had remote control thermostats which could be programmed in the early 2000's. Greenhouses have used remote control for over 20 years.

I'd like to innovate the whole system (1)

stabiesoft (733417) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958527)

When I upgraded my HVAC to 2 stage heat/cool, they could not setup the 2 stage heat to be activated from the thermostat controller, so it had to be set to switch to hi mode after 15 minutes of continuous demand. Why? Because there were only 5 wires. Why couldn't they design a thermostat/HVAC that only needed 2 wires? Instead, it still uses an ancient protocol that needs more wires for more features.

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