Unless you're fortunate enough to live in an area that is always temperate, you'll reach a point in the year where you're grateful for the modern marvel that is climate control. That's especially true here in the valley, where I dare say there's no better feeling than stepping from a blistering 110-degree heat into the cooled confines of an air-conditioned building. And as with most things, technology has greatly improved how we're able to heat and cool our living and working spaces, with companies vying to make the next great innovation. One recent lawsuit proves that the world of air conditioning can be as ruthless as a community college trade school.
Allure Energy, Inc., an Austin-based startup, has filed an infringement lawsuit against Honeywell over one of the manufacturing giant's thermostats. The lawsuit claims that Honeywell's Lyric thermostat infringes upon two patents held by Allure Energy. The Lyric's geofencing feature automatically adjusts your home's temperature based upon the location of your smartphone in order to have your home the ideal temperature by the time you step in the front door.
Unfortunately, this feature is nearly identical to Allure Energy's EverSense thermometer which also adjusts temperature based upon location. In the suit, Allure Energy alleges that Honeywell was aware of their geolocation technology before developing the Lyric. Allure Energy claims that Honeywell requested a demo of the EverSense at the DistribuTECH conference in January 2012 and later purchased several samples. At the time, Allure Energy believed Honeywell was interested in a partnership that would allow them to enter the "smart" thermometer, but were shocked when the Lyric came on the market in 2014.
The suit against Honeywell is not the first instance of Allure Energy being proactive in protecting its intellectual property. The company filed a suit against Nest Labs in 2013 over the Nest Learning Thermostat, which Allure Energy claimed was also infringing upon the EverSense for an "auto-adaptable energy management apparatus"(In an interesting twist, Nest was also sued by Honeywell, in 2012).
It is this diligence that allows Allure Energy to assert its rights and avoid being crowded-out by larger companies. As the suit states, Allure Energy "is able to compete with much larger companies only because of its cutting-edge technology—its innovations and technological advancements help level the playing field." Allure Energy founder and CEO Kevin Imes also said, "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 US patent laws. 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.” Unfortunately, such litigation can take years, so Allure Energy will have to wait for a resolution to the matter.
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