The War Of IRobot’s On Robot Vacuums Has Its First Victory
In April 2017, iRobot, which manufactures the Roomba, filed a patent infringement case against nine different manufacturers of rival home cleaning robots. Since then, there are arguments and lawsuits in the air of vacuum cleaning industry. However, recently iRobot has tasted its first victory and struck a deal with Black and Decker.
While filing these case, iRobot claimed that each of the nine companies have infringed upon one or more of the six key patents that iRobot holds. There are a lot of commonalities in their devices which can’t be a coincidence. Many vacuum cleaners held by these 9 companies cover a lot of common robot vacuum behaviours such as using bump sensors to redirect a robot if it meets with an obstacle or using swirling patterns to clean an area thoroughly. Not only these many broad ideas were also claimed to be copied one of which is how the whole system of brushes, sensors, motors and a centralized controlled would interact with each other.
In the series of events that started in April, Black & Decker was arguably one of the most well-known brand name involved, especially for the US market. Black & Decker currently has a series of robo-vac models having features like extra-wide sweeper brushes or smartphone remote control.
The two rival companies have now come into a mutual agreement that Black & Decker would discontinue the sales of its products with a few mutually agreed terms. One of the term allows Black & Decker to sell through its existing robot inventory before ceasing sales. The actual volume in the company’s warehouse is still not clear. Also, there is no clarity on the time period for which the company would hold on to its part of the deal as all that agreement mentions is that it could last for a certain period of time.
About the deal, Glen Weinstein, executive vice president and chief legal officer at iRobot, said “iRobot believes in the strength of its patents, and the agreement by Black & Decker to discontinue sales of any home robotic vacuums for a certain period of time signifies, yet again, the value of iRobot’s intellectual property,”
For now the name of Black & Decker has been officially removed off the the iRobot US International Trade Commission (ITC) complaint. However, the complaint is still going on against other manufacturers named: Hoover, Bissell, Royal Appliance Manufacturing Co., Shenzhen ZhiYi Technology Co., bObsweep, Matsutek Enterprises Co., Shenzhen Silver Star Intelligent Technology Co. and Suzhou Real Power Electric Appliance Co.
The hearing at the ITC is expected to take place in March 2018, however given the recent events many companies might be pondering upon cutting a deal right now.