“Dear Your Honor”—Some Legal Maneuverings from the iRobot-Robotic FX Files

10/13/07Follow @bbuderi

In the course of following the mesmerizing courtroom drama of the iRobot-Robotic FX case it’s become part of our daily routine to check for new legal filings—a habit that’s grown even stronger as we wait for a decision on whether a preliminary injunction will be issued against Robotic FX. (And when we forget, our faithful readers do the job for us—thanks Andy!)

Sometimes we incorporate the new material immediately into our articles, other times the filings serve as backgrounders that help shape what we write down the road. On Wednesday, our attention was drawn to two filings (until yesterday, the most recent in this case) containing three documents. One was a letter from iRobot attorney Michael Bunis of Fish & Richardson to Judge Nancy Gertner of U.S. District Court in Boston. The second document, part of the same filing, was iRobot’s new proposed language for a preliminary injunction against its competitor. The third document, a memo from Robotic FX, offered that company’s take on why an injunction against it should be denied. And then late yesterday (Friday) afternoon came another filing from iRobot, taking umbrage with Robotic FX’s memo from Wednesday.

In the big picture, these documents represent standard legal jockeying. But they do contain some interesting points. The iRobot letter, for instance, tells of the company’s attempts to satisfy the judge’s request that the firm narrow its injunction request from what it originally sought—a blanket stoppage of Robotic FX’s production of its Negotiator robot or any other robot embodying iRobot’s trade secrets or confidential information. In particular, it laid out how iRobot tried to address the federal government’s concerns that nothing delay the delivery of bomb-detection robots to combat troops, while at the same time preventing Robotic FX from becoming “the entrenched supplier” of the robots. (You can get a backgrounder on the whole iRobot-RoboticFX case and links to all our core stories here.)

A key part of the letter detailed how iRobot asked the Army to join with the two parties to craft an arrangement that allowed iRobot and Robotic FX to both deliver robots until the legal dispute was resolved. IRobot also sought to preclude any alliance or change of control of Robotic FX that could result in iRobot’s trade secrets reaching another potential competitor. This provision addressed the news that came up in testimony that an unnamed major defense contractor is interested in buying Robotic FX. According to iRobot’s letter, the government declined to take part in such a discussion, although the U.S. Attorney’s office indicated it might be willing to comment upon any proposal the parties reached.

There’s a lot more in the letter, including some digs at the government. The letter also summarizes iRobot’s revised proposal for a preliminary injunction.

Robotic FX, for its part, asserted in its memo “that any need for an injunction is moot” because of a stay on Robotic FX’s military contract imposed by the Government Accountability Office. Robotic FX also argued that iRobot failed to produce sufficient evidence to warrant an injunction.

However, the filing continued, if an injunction was granted nonetheless, the court should confine the order only to the parts of Robotic FX’s robots using iRobot trade secrets and confidential information. It then asserted that iRobot “has yet to identify with any specificity the trade secrets and confidential information it alleges have been misappropriated.” (We can’t help but note that iRobot has argued repeatedly that it can’t say for sure what was misappropriated, because Robotic FX founder Jameel Ahed destroyed the evidence that might have shown just that).

The latest submission from iRobot, filed Friday, includes a memo that took Robotic FX to task for failing in its memo to stick to the jurisdictional questions the court asked about and instead submitting new arguments why the injunction should not be permitted. In rebutting those arguments, iRobot’s memo laid out a pretty nice synopsis of the evidence it has presented in the case, from Ahed’s accessing iRobot documents after he left the company to his tossing iRobot equipment (or iRobot-like equipment) into a dumpster to his shredding of CD-ROMS. The filing also included, as an exhibit, an article from Bloomberg News Service in which U.S. Attorney Anita Johnson was quoted. In iRobot’s view, according to the memo, Johnson “jumped into the case with both feet” by making statements supportive of Robotic FX.

So, it’s a lot of legal maneuvering that might not change anything the judge would have done. But we know many of you are following this case closely. We’d love to hear what you see in these documents.

iRobot’s letter
iRobot’s proposed preliminary injunction
Robotic FX’s memo
iRobot’s memo in response

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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  • anon

    Wow, just…wow. The government must be getting other information that we never see. Must come from the same place those WMDs were found… Anyway, I’m just amazed at how much the government can screw something up this bad. I think we should drop the case, go to PRIVATE arbitration to settle the contract thing (which is simple, let iRobot do it, for the same price, and done the right way). Then, go back and let iRobot sue the crap out of RoboticFX for everything, plus throw in the criminal charges. Save lives, save money, let the government throw away money on a case that isn’t so dumb. Interesting, we haven’t heard much about the criminal charges (if any?). Maybe the courts stick to the matters at hand though.