IRobot Declares Victory in Battle of the Bots; Could Absorb Some Robotic FX Assets as Rival Dissolves
IRobot officially declared victory in its legal battles with Robotic FX this evening, as judges in Massachusetts and Alabama signed off on settlements (which we reported earlier in the day had been reached) that put Robotic FX out of business. At its discretion, the Burlington, MA-based firm can also absorb some of its former rival’s assets.
“The judgments validate our strong intellectual property position and the value of our IP,” said iRobot co-founder and chairman Helen Greiner in a statement issued this evening. “We are proud to deliver our reliable field-proven robots to aid our warfighters in their dangerous missions.”
It’s been a whirlwind last five months for Burlington, MA-based iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT). In August, the company filed two lawsuits—one in U.S. District Court in Alabama and one ultimately moved to U.S. District Court in Massachusetts—alleging that the Negotiator robot built by Robotic FX was illegally derived from its own PackBot. Since the lawsuits were filed, the company has lost an Army contract potentially worth some $280 million to Robotic FX, won a preliminary injunction preventing its rival from delivering on the deal, and then, late last week, won back the contract, which calls for iRobot to deliver up to 3,000 bomb-detection robots to troops in the Middle East. The settlements finalized today put an emphatic exclamation point at the end of the story and clear iRobot’s decks of a major financial question mark as it heads into 2008.
IRobot said in today’s statement that it will cost some $2.9 million to litigate and settle the cases. Under the terms of the Alabama settlement, Alsip, IL-based Robotic FX acknowledged it infringed on two iRobot patents in making the Negotiator and is permanently enjoined from “making, using, selling, or offering to sell any goods that in any way infringe” on those patents. Some customers that previously bought Negotiators are allowed to continue using them.
Under the Massachusetts settlement, iRobot secured victory on its claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, and unfair competition. Its claim of computer fraud and abuse was dismissed. Furthermore, the settlement effectively enjoins Robotic FX founder Jameel Ahed from competing with iRobot—in either its consumer or military businesses—for five years.