Nest Labs Files Counterclaims In Honeywell Suit, Makes Apple’s Former Chief Patent Counsel A VP

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Watch out, Honeywell. Nest Labs is serious. The Palo Alto start-up previously stated that it has the resources to defend itself, which is clearly the case. Just today the company filed Answer and Counterclaims in Honeywell’s patent infringement suit against the upstart thermostat company. Nest Labs flat-out denies infringement claims and validity of the seven patents listed by Honeywell.

A press released issued today calls the complaint “meritless allegations.” It goes on to quote its new vice president and general counsel, Richard “Chip” Lutton, Jr., who was Apple’s former chief intellectual property office, “Instead of filing lawsuits, Honeywell should use its wealth and resources to bring innovative products to market. Nest will defend itself vigorously in court and we’ll keep our company’s focus where it should be – on developing and delivering great products for our customers.” Grab some popcorn, folks. This is going to get good.

During his 10 year stint at Apple, Lutton worked with Nest Labs founder and CEO, Tony Fadell. The two likely worked closely as Tony Fadell led the iPod development team for 18 generations and the first several iPhone dev teams. As Apple’s chief patent counsel Lutton was involved in all aspects of Apple’s patent development, acquisition, licensing, enforcement, and dispute. So yeah, Nest Labs hired a big gun.

“I’ve worked with Tony for more than a decade – first at Apple and more recently as an advisor to Nest,” said Lutton in a released statement today. “What he and the Nest team have built is incredibly inspiring – the company has been disruptive from Day One and has no plans to slow down. I’m excited to help Nest drive and defend its innovative products and business culture.”

Nest Labs is essentially fighting the establishment. In today’s Answers and Counterclaims, Nest Labs labors on how the Nest Learning Thermostat product threatens the “blah-looking controller”, a controller that most often happens to be made by Honeywell. Nest Labs also refutes claims that its product uses Honeywell’s patents. But even if they did, Nest Labs insists said patents would be invalid as they’re retreads of older, expired patents or, not even worthy of a patent as in the case of Honeywell’s ’504 patent referring to a controller using “complete grammatical sentences”. As the document later points out, some of Honeywell’s older patents are invalid on the grounds that even older patent applications were abandoned when prior art was discovered.

It’s hard to say if Honeywell knew that Nest Labs would respond with such vigor. Start-ups often tend to roll-over and settle, content with pivoting rather than fighting. But not Nest Labs. They’re fighting to keep selling their clearly disruptive learning thermostat.