Friday, September 21, 2007

Did Robotic FX Steal Secrets from iRobot?

Burlington-based iRobot has filed a suit against a Chicago company that was founded by a former iRobot engineer, alleging that the ex-engineer took trade secrets from iRobot and used them to build a rip-off of the PackBot, a military bot iRobot designed that is being used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last week, the Chicago company, Robotic FX, beat out iRobot to win a $280 million contract from the military.

Hiawatha Bray has a lengthy account in this morning's Globe. He writes:

    The case took another twist yesterday, when iRobot went to federal court in Boston, asking a federal judge to halt production at Robotic FX. Representatives from the Justice Department and the Army weighed in against such an injunction. The arguments played out behind closed doors because of national security considerations. But in a brief filed yesterday, US Attorney Michael Sullivan said halting production would jeopardize the lives of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    "The protection that the detection robots provide for our troops easily dwarfs whatever interest the public has in a private dispute between two corporations," Sullivan wrote.

Xconomy has a few blog posts:

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