Allure Energy filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Honeywell on Thursday over that company's Lyric thermostat, which was released last year.
The lawsuit takes issue with Lyric’s use of location-based controls, which Allure Energy claims is protected by patent. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, claims that Honeywell infringes on two patents, No. 8,626,344 and No. 8,457,797.
Allure Energy’s EverSense thermostat uses geolocation technology that relies on mobile phones to adjust the home environment. Depending on whether your smartphone is within range of the home, the EverSense sets the home environment accordingly.
“When I founded Allure, our mission as a company was to change the way people save energy in the home without having to overthink it. We accomplished that goal and protected our technology,” Allure Energy’s CEO, Kevin Imes, said in a statement. "Up against global giants with greater resources and reach, our competitive advantage is our cutting-edge technology, on which we cannot allow others to have a free ride.”
As Greentech Media noted in 2013 when covering Allure Energy, it was not the only company at that time which was integrating location-based controls. Allure may have to fight not just incumbent Honeywell, but many others as well. "As a small company pioneering this important space, it’s critical that we protect our intellectual property and enforce our exclusive rights to this technology under the U.S. patent laws," said Imes.
In fact, Allure did not start with Honeywell, but rather Nest. In 2013, Allure Energy sued Nest over the learning capability in that company's learning thermostat. That lawsuit is still pending.
The most recent lawsuit alleges that Honeywell was aware of Allure’s technology before it developed the Lyric, including asking for a demo of EverSense at DistribuTECH in January, 2012, and later ordering samples of the product. Allure Energy and Honeywell were both exhibitors at that show, so it is not unreasonable that the competition might use that opportunity to size up emerging market players.
Honeywell told Greentech Media it has not yet reviewed Allure’s complaints. “Honeywell takes intellectual property very seriously and is always prepared to assert its rights and defend itself vigorously when challenged,” the company said when asked about the lawsuit.
“We have more than 100 years of experience and a sizable patent portfolio related to climate-control technologies. And our recently launched Lyric Thermostat enjoys the benefits of this expertise.”
Honeywell, which holds more than 36,000 patents, is not shy about defending them where it feels it is necessary. In 2012, Honeywell sued Nest over patent infringement, including a patent on the round shape of the thermostat. Nest has requested that the U.S. patent office review each of the disputed seven patents.
The lawsuit by Allure claims that the startup thought Honeywell might be seeking a relationship due to its interest in their product in 2012. “We were aware that Honeywell’s product offerings had fallen behind consumers’ increasing desire for a connected smart thermostat,” said Imes. “We thought our technology could be used to help Honeywell finally enter the ‘smart’ thermostat market.”
Less than two years, however, the Lyric hit the market. However, as with the Honeywell/Nest lawsuit, it could be years before there is a clear outcome.