Hearing in IRobot v. Robotic FX Continued Until Monday; Robot-Delivery Deadline Looms
A U.S. District Court hearing scheduled for yesterday in iRobot’s lawsuit against Alsip, IL-based Robotic FX was continued until Monday, a court clerk said today.
In the lawsuit, filed in Massachusetts, and in a separate one filed in Alabama, Burlington, MA-based iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT) has accused the rival firm of infringing on patents for a iRobot’s “Packbot” military robot and misappropriation and misuse of confidential information related to the machine. (The Massachusetts suit also names Robotic FX founder Jameel Ahed, a former iRobot employee.) In the hearing slated for yesterday in a Boston court, iRobot was seeking a preliminary injunction against Robotic FX, which last week won a $279.9 million contract to deliver its “Negotiator” robots—the devices that are the subject of the suits—to the U.S. Army. IRobot had also competed for the contract.
The delay of the injunction hearing may ratchet the stakes up a notch, since, under the terms of the contract, Robotic FX’s first two Negotiator robots are due to the military by Monday, according to statements filed by Ahed earlier this week. Ahed’s statements and other filings in the two cases read like a thriller, as we described on Wednesday, complete with stake-outs, accusations of evidence-shredding, and impassioned declarations from U.S. officials. A Boston Globe account published today provides another recap of the case, and—evidently thanks to a computer glitch—a peek into depositions by Ahed and Robotic FX chief operations officer Kimberly Hill that were supposed to have been sealed.
In the depositions, according to the Globe, Ahed and Hill claim that when U.S. marshals raided Hill’s apartment and found Ahed’s laptop computer, under a bed, running a program to hard-drive-wiping program, they were destroying backup copies of their own files, rather than data from iRobot. Why? “Jameel and I became concerned that iRobot was getting desperate…and we became concerned that they were going to try to break into our building and steal some of our data to put us out of business,” the Globe quotes Hill’s deposition as saying.
The saga, it seems, is to be continued on Monday. We’ll update you then—unless something else happens sooner.