A recently issued Nest patent describes integrating home automation and social networking

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SAN FRANCISCO - Google paid $3.2 billion for Nest Labs to bring Tony Fadell and a cadre of former Apple developers to the company and get a foothold in the potentially hot connected home market.

But Google may also have been interested in Nest's portfolio of patents focused on home automation and related technology, which may come in handy as the company expands beyond Internet search and mobile.

"While Nest has already built a strong reputation for design and user experience, we believe Google would not have purchased the company if it did not have substantial and valuable intellectual property associated with the design of embedded systems," Carlos Kirjner, an analyst at Bernstein Research wrote in a note to investors Tuesday.

Google has been hammered by the smartphone patent litigation war stemming from its entrance into the mobile market through its Android operating system. The company was once considered weak on patents, given its market value and reach. The acquisition of Motorola for $12.5 billion partly solved this by bringing a mountain of phone related patents to the company.

Google has also been pushing for reforms to the patent system, but the company is still likely interested in a juicy portfolio of intellectual property focused on a new and potentially large new market.

Nest has been granted 40 patents, has acquired 60 and has filed for more than 200 more, according to spokeswoman Kate Brinks.

In September, Nest cut a deal with Intellectual Ventures, one of the largest aggregators of patents, that gives it access to more than 40,000 patents for defensive purposes.

"In just a few short years since its founding in 2010, Nest has done an excellent job in obtaining patents related to its self-learning thermostat, smoke alarm, and home automation technology," said Maulin Shah of patent research firm Envision IP.

Some of this patent expertise came from Apple. Chip Lutton, the former chief patent counsel of Apple, joined Nest in 2012.

Nest patents may complement Google's technology well, Maulin added in a blog Tuesday.

A recently issued Nest patent spotted by Maulin, US 8620841, describes integrating home automation and social networking.

"A user's status as reported to their trusted contacts on the social network could be updated to indicate when they are home based on light detection, security system inactivation or device usage detectors," the patent reads.

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