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Nest gets sued for its talking smoke detector

Posting in Technology
BRK, which sells the First Alert brand of smoke detectors, has filed a patent lawsuit against Nest Labs over the startup company's talking smoke and carbon monoxide alarm just as the new product hit the U.S., UK and Canada market.

Nest Labs, founded by former Apple product engineers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, has received a lot of attention over the Apple design-inspired smart learning thermostat it introduced in October 2011. The company's second product, and the subject of this recent lawsuit, is the Protect Nest—a smart smoke and CO detector that gives a voice warning, allows the user to silence it with the wave of their hand and includes mobile notifications if the battery is running low.

Pre-orders of the Nest Protect smoke and CO alarm began shipping this week and consumers can now buy the product online at Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, nest.com and Home Deport for $129. The alarms should be in select retail store by the end of next week, Nest says.

That positive news has been dampened by a lawsuit filed by BRK, a company that started making battery-powered smoke detectors in the early 1960s. According to the lawsuit, which was first reported by Verge, BRK's lawsuit seeks to prevent Nest from selling its Protect product and require the company to pay for damages caused by copying the patents. 

The lawsuit centers on using pre-recorded voice alerts in its location warning system, which BRK argues it has patented. The company alleges Nest has infringed on another patent regarding locating sensors near the mounting surface of a smoke detector.

Here is Nest's response to the lawsuit, which was sent to me via email:

This is an all-too-common defensive response from an entrenched industry incumbent. In this case, it’s particularly troubling that BRK/ First Alert want to prevent consumers from benefiting from an improved safety-related device. But we are fully prepared to fight this unfounded lawsuit vigorously in court. In the meantime, we’ll continue to reinvent unloved products to improve people’s lives.

You might remember that Honeywell filed a lawsuit against Nest Labs with a patent infringement lawsuit last year. Honeywell's lawsuit alleged infringement of seven patents related to its thermostat technology. The suit also named Best Buy, the big box retailer that is selling Nest's Learning Thermostat.

Nest countered those allegations, and in perhaps a not so coincidental move, hired former Apple chief patent counsel Richard Lutton as vice president and general counsel to the company.


Thumbnail photo: Nest Labs



— By on November 21, 2013, 11:06 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure