Allure Energy sued Nest Labs yesterday, claiming that the company's much-celebrated Nest Learning Thermostat infringed on its patent.
Filing the suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the Austin, Texas-based Allure alleged that its patent for the invention of an "Auto-adaptable energy management apparatus" trumped Nest's right to develop, market, and sell a smart thermostat.
Allure said it first began designing its product, which is known as EverSense, in 2009, and filed it patent application in 2010. The company said in a release that it also got a patent for "proximity control technology," which is meant to quickly adapt to residents' daily schedules in order to give them automatic energy savings and comfort, and to modify settings while they are still away from home.
Nest launched its smart thermostat, which combines an Apple aesthetic with technology designed to maximize residents' comfort and energy savings by learning and adapting to their behaviors, in 2011. Its founders, Tony Fadell (the "father of the iPod") and Matt Rogers, both had long high-level tenures at Apple. The Palo Alto, Calif., company has become one of the hottest startups in Silicon Valley.
But Nest has run into other companies claiming that its technology was infringing. Most notably, it has been in a legal tangle with Honeywell for some time, with that technology giant arguing in February 2012 that Nest infringed on seven of its patents involving user interface control and other advanced features. Among the technologies Honeywell said Nest infringed were those dealing with programming a thermostat by asking users questions like the temperature they want in their home while they're away. Nest fought back and plans to defend itself against Honeywell in court.
In its release, Allure said its own patent covers "a temperature controlling apparatus or thermostat capable of receiving inputs from users and automatically creating a schedule and set points." It said its patent also covers other technology that Nest had infringed, and added that it had notified Nest in late 2011 of its patents, and that it had not had a response from Fadell or other Nest executives.
Nest declined to comment.