U.S. to Judge: Don’t Stop Robotic FX

10/17/07

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is not backing down in its attempts to move a key part of iRobot’s battle against Robotic FX out of U.S. District Court in Boston—reiterating in a new document filed last night that the court lacks the jurisdiction to grant iRobot’s desired preliminary injunction against its rival.

And so the drama continues. Just as we were expecting U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner to rule on the preliminary injunction—iRobot is seeking to halt Robotic FX’s production of its Negotiator robot or any other robot that allegedly embodies iRobot’s trade secrets or confidential information—new arguments are filed that appear to at least give her more fodder to chew over.

You can get a backgrounder on the whole iRobot-Robotic FX case and links to all our core stories here. One big issue on the preliminary injunction, though, is the U.S. government’s interest in making sure that bomb-detection robots, which the Army contracted with Robotic FX to deliver, are not delayed in reaching troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s new filing—which is a response to an iRobot brief filed on October 5—concedes that the U.S. District court has jurisdiction over iRobot’s trade-secret allegations against Robotic FX. But it reiterates the office’s argument that because a preliminary injunction would in effect enjoin a government contract, the question of the injunction belongs in the Court of Federal Claims, rather than in the District Court.

What’s more, the new filing argues, even if Judge Gertner had jurisdiction to rule on the injunction, it would not be warranted: “Balancing the interest of the public in unobstructed availability of the robots with iRobot’s financial interest in substituting itself as the winner of the contract, the government suggests that the equities are in favor of letting the contract go forward, letting the parties develop the evidence through the usual discovery procedures, awarding damages if appropriate, and permitting the agency [editor's note: presumably the reference to "agency" means the Army, though that was not spelled out in the filing]—as is its legal right—to be the decisionmaker regarding which company is the most qualified, capable, and the lowest bidder, subject to review by the GAO and the Court of Federal Claims.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s filing comes almost a week after Robotic FX’s brief on the jurisdiction question was due to (and filed with) Judge Gertner. It’s not clear how much longer it will take the judge to consider the new arguments and rule on the injunction.

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