nav search
Data Center Software Security Transformation DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes BOFH

Google, Honeywell put away Nest patent knives

And they are not going to tell anyone the details of their cosy settlement

By Kieren McCarthy, 6 May 2016

A long-standing lawsuit between thermostat company Honeywell and Google over the Nest smart thermostat has been settled, with both sides agreeing to a "long-term patent cross-license agreement".

No details beyond that vague agreement were provided. So it's unclear whether there was any financial compensation, or agreement that any patents had been infringed, or even what patents are included in the new agreement.

The market shrugged its shoulders at the news: Honeywell's share price dipped slightly before returning to its original price. Google/Alphabet's price went up very slightly on the news and is up 1.4 per cent over the day, but that increase is unlikely to be a result of the Honeywell agreement.

Honeywell brought its case against Nest in 2012 claiming the upstart had infringed its patents covering user interfaces and remote controls. Nest responded that Honeywell was simply trying to squash competition with frivolous legal action.

The game shifted in 2014 however when Nest was bought by Google for $3.2bn. The search engine giant's deep pockets effectively created a standoff between the two.

Menaced

Honeywell's position as the leading thermostat manufacturer was directly threatened by the sudden success of Nest, which has acted as a poster boy not just for smart thermostats but also the broader smart home market.

The Nest's simplified, round, user-friendly interface has been a huge contrast to the rectangular, clunky beige boxes with dozens of buttons that have become Honeywell's stock-in-trade.

Nest's arrival also spurred Honeywell into action, resulting in a range of new thermostats from the company with more user-friendly interfaces and even a new round thermostat Honeywell calls Lyric. The company has also partnered with Samsung and its SmartThings platform in an effort to catch up with Nest's features and market approval.

Nest, for its part, has been having a rough time recently with its CEO criticized for creating a disruptive environment and for failing to bring out any major new products. The latest version of the Nest – version 3 – came out in September but offered little more than an increase in the size of the screen.

Meanwhile, to El Reg's, reckoning, the best smart thermostat on the market comes from neither company. The Ecobee has almost all the features of the Nest and some additional ones, and provides a smartphone-style interface that beats out both the stylish Nest and the clunky Honeywell line. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing