Last October, Via Meadia highlighted a new product from the man who brought us the iPod: the Nest learning thermostat. It was a great example of innovative design and engineering lighting the way forward for a greener future. And it showed how iconoclastic American startups can continue to revolutionize previously stagnant markets by bringing technology to bear on simple everyday problems.
But as is often the case with disruptive technology, entrenched interests are not taking kindly to the challenge. A week ago, Honeywell International filed a suit claiming that several of its patents were infringed upon.
We at Via Meadia are not patent lawyers and can’t pass judgment on how valid these claims are. Intellectual property rights are an important part of a thriving market economy, and if the Nest folks are using technology that Honeywell has previously developed without paying licensing fees, they should be compelled to pay up. But as we look at our dusty old thermostat hanging on the wall, we can’t help but feel a little disappointed that this battle may be fought in the courts rather than in the marketplace.
We want cool new gadgets that cut our energy bills and enhance our lives, and we want them now. Let’s hope the legal process works quickly and one way or another some innovative products get to the stores. The purpose of patent law is to speed innovation up, not slow it down, and we hope the lawyers and judges involved keep this fundamental principle in mind as they analyze the facts of this case.