iRobot to Robotic FX, "You stole our design"

Posted on 25/09/2013 by wcox in Industry


Robotic FX manufactures a tactical robot for military operations. It can be equipped for hazmat and EOD operations. The Negotiator and its bigger brother, the Negotiator 6X, are water resistant, can climb stairs, and weigh around 20lbs and 46lbs, respectively. Robotic FX has also recently won a $280 million USD contract with the US Army to ship 3,000 robots to the Middle East for Army operations.

There's one slight problem though - iRobot is accusing Robotic FX of stealing designs for iRobot's PackBot system, and of patent infringement. Not only did Robotic FX's president, Jameel Ahed, formerly work at iRobot and access to technical information on the PackBot, but its hard to deny the amazing similarites between the two designs - especially manipulator arm and the patented front "flipper" design of the PackBot.

According to Defense News,


Five days after iRobot sued a rival robot maker, U.S. Marshals on Aug.
22 seized paper shredders at the Fort Worth, Ill., offices and homes of
two Robotic Fx employees suspected of destroying evidence, according to
documents filed in state and federal court by iRobot officials.



And just when you thought it couldn't get worse, according to this Boston Globe article, "iRobot's suit alleges that one day after his resignation [from iRobot in June 2002], Ahed used his
still-active iRobot e-mail account to send confidential iRobot files to
a Robotic FX address."


... documents filed by iRobot say that on the evening of Aug. 17, Ahed, watched by private detectives from Kroll Inc.
hired by iRobot, emerged from the Robotic FX offices and loaded several
boxes into the trunk of a white Saturn sedan belonging to [Kimberly] Hill, the
company's chief operating officer. The next day, Ahed discarded the
items in a dumpster in Chicago, not far from Hill's apartment."

The suit also alleges that a court-ordered search of Hill's aparement revealed a laptop, owned by Ahed, concealed under her bed running an eraser program - unfortunately, the program had done its job before the police were able to locate it.

All this said, I wonder if Robotic FX will have their hands full dealing with a major lawsuit and delivering 3,000 robots to the US Army.

Looks like Robotic FX may need one heck of a "negotiator" to get out of this one. May justice be done.

More info at Xconomy and Robot Stock News.



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