Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wired Mag on the iRobot/Robotic FX Lawsuit

Noah Shachtman has a piece in the current issue of Wired about the rivalry and legal wrangling between iRobot and Robotic FX, a Chicago company founded by a one-time iRobot employee. It's a great weekend read.

Here's the opening:

    Jameel Ahed says he didn't really read the email. He was preoccupied with trying to solve a few electrical problems on the robots he hoped his company would sell to the US Army for as much as $300 million, one of the largest robot orders in history. So he didn't pay much attention to the fact that iRobot, his former employer and chief competitor for the Army contract, was suing him for stealing their designs. And he didn't read the attachment ordering him to preserve any evidence related to the case.

    Nevertheless, a few hours later that evening, Ahed began cleaning out his suburban Chicago office. He gathered up circuit boards and electronic components and threw them into a box marked "iRobot" — maker of the cute little Roomba vacuum cleaner and sophisticated military robots. He stuffed the box into a green duffel bag, carried it outside, and put it in the trunk of a white Saturn registered to the parents of Kimberly Hill, his girlfriend and the chief operating officer of his company, Robotic FX.

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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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