Big Win Looming for IRobot as it Settles Both Cases With Robotic FX
[Updated 2:45 pm---see end of story.] IRobot’s two lawsuits against Robotic FX are being settled in favor of the Burlington, MA-based plaintiff, according to filings in U.S. District Courts in Massachusetts and Alabama.
Settlements filed over the last couple of hours include judgment in favor of iRobot on all counts of the Alabama suit, and on three of four counts of the Massachusetts suit. At the time of this post, the Alabama settlement has been signed by a judge, while the Massachusetts settlement is awaiting finalization by the Court.
The Alabama settlement permanently enjoins Alsip, IL-based Robotic RX from “making, using, selling, or offering to sell any goods that in any way infringe” on two iRobot patents that the firm acknowledges it infringed in making its Negotiator robot. It further refers to an exhibit specifying certain customers of Robotic FX who are not enjoined from using the Negotiator itself—presumably this refers to customers who previously purchased units—but the exhibit itself has been impounded.
The Massachusetts settlement includes judgment in favor of iRobot on its claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, and unfair competition. The Burlington firm’s claim of computer fraud and abuse is dismissed in the settlement, however. That settlement enjoins Robotic FX founder Jameel Ahed for five years from “directly or indirectly, as an individual proprietor, partner, stockholder…, officer, employee, director, joint venturer, lender or in any other capacity whatsoever, engaging in the business of developing, producing, marketing or selling any robotic product of the kind or type developed, produced, marketed or sold by iRobot, and publicly disclosed (including, without limitation, robotic products for use in the military, homeland security, consumer house-hold and toy markets), as of the Effective Date of the Settlement Agreement.”
In the Alabama settlement, Robotic FX stipulates that it has infringed upon two iRobot patents by making its Negotiator robot, that it “knew of the existence and scope of at least one of” the patents, and that its “infringement has been willful and objectively reckless.”
In the Massachusetts settlement, Robotic FX and Ahed stipulate that they “misappropriated certain of iRobot’s proprietary and confidential information—including trade secrets including without limitation information related to the design and manufacture of robot tracks.” The settlement also says that “Robotic FX obtained a competitive advantage over iRobot in the market for private, state, municipal agency and federal government procurement of small urban ground vehicles and man-portable tactical mobile robots, including without limitation the xBot competition, by using the misappropriated iRobot proprietary and confidential information.” The filing goes on to detail Ahed’s destruction and attempted destruction of evidence, including his now-infamous dumpster disposal of iRobot tools for manufacturing robot tracks.
We’re watching carefully as the court updates its filings, and have calls and e-mails out to both companies and their attorneys. We’ll post the settlement documents shortly, and will bring you more news as we get it.
Update 2:45 pm:
We’re still waiting on word from the Massachusetts court, but we did get a quick clarification from iRobot attorney Michael Bunis, of the Boston office of Fish & Richardson, on the nature of the two settlements. Bunis explained that a typical settlement agreement is essentially a contract between the two parties, and that to address future violations of the agreement the offended party would have to file a new lawsuit, often in front of a new judge. What iRobot has gotten in Alabama, and will get in Massachusetts if and when the judge here finalizes the agreement, is what’s called a consent decree, Bunis says—a court order that places more stringent obligations on the parties to comply. With such a decree, the court retains jurisdiction and the judge can enforce the agreement directly by holding the parties in contempt for any violations. “Once you read the terms of the documents,” Bunis says, “you’ll see that it really accomplishes everything I think we set out to accomplish.”
So here are those documents: