Overheard: Word of the Day

Sep 25 2007   5:02PM GMT

Overheard – robotics

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

“You know mobile robots have moved beyond the novelty stage when they are embroiled in that classic business action: A fight over trade secrets.”

David Brooks, Granite Geek

You may not be aware that iRobot, the company famous for making Roomba, also makes robots for the military. (I have a Roomba, by the way and I would get another one immediately if something ever happened to this one.) A former employee at iRobot went off to Chicago to start his own business, which he called Robot FX — and now the sparks are flying!

On his blog, David Brooks reports that the Chicago-based robot firm (Robot FX) is charged with swiping proprietary information about the military robot that iRobot was developing. It seems that both companies were in the running for a $200 million military contract.

Here’s what the Boston Globe has to say about the lawsuit. You won’t believe it.

Parties to a lawsuit are required to preserve all evidence in the case. An iRobot attorney contacted Robotic FX attorney Patricia Kane Schmidt by e-mail and FedEx on the day the suits were filed, urging her to warn her clients not to destroy evidence. But 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 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. Kroll operatives who witnessed Ahed’s actions retrieved the discarded materials, which included electronics components inside a box marked “iRobot,” as well as the empty carton for a new paper shredder. “Most particularly we found a tool that is a confidential piece of technology used by iRobot,” said iRobot attorney Ruffin Cordell. “It appeared that somebody had gotten hold of a replica.” Cordell declined to identify the tool, but said it had been designed by iRobot engineers for use in assembling PackBots.

BATTLEBOTS BEGIN!

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