Roomba maker seeks to sweep rival SharkNinja vacuums from US

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IRobot Corp is asking a commerce decide to block US imports of rival SharkNinja robotic vacuum cleaners, alleging they copied superior options.

IRobot will argue within the trial that begins Wednesday that JS Global Lifestyle Co’s SharkNinja infringes 5 of its patents for expertise that allows robotic vacuums and hybrid vacuum-moppers to create a map of a room or ground, navigate areas to clear and higher handle power.

SharkNinja, which denies infringing the patents and maintains that they aren’t even legitimate to start with, final yr accused iRobot of an “ill-conceived effort to litigate SharkNinja out of the robotic vacuum cleaner market and limit consumer choice”.

The trial is iRobot’s newest effort in a years-long battle to curb the rising menace from SharkNinja merchandise – this time by searching for an import ban on fashions together with the Shark ION, IQ, and AI moist/dry VacMop robotic ground cleaners.

International Trade Commission Judge MaryJoan McNamara is scheduled to launch her findings by the top of April, with a last resolution by the company anticipated on Aug 29. While the fee usually pushes again its deadlines, the present time-frame would imply {that a} loss for SharkNinja would see its merchandise halted on the US border and pulled off retailer cabinets earlier than the 2022 vacation buying season.

“By using its patents to squeeze SharkNinja out of the lucrative US robot-vacuum market, iRobot could take more of the estimated US$145mil (RM608.05mil) in annual high-end US product sales it’s missing out on,” Tamlin Bason, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, mentioned in a Dec 29 be aware.

IRobot shares dropped 18% in 2021, in contrast with a 29% rise within the S&P 500 Index, as the corporate lowered its steering for the yr. The firm mentioned it struggled with a “challenging supply chain environment”, together with a scarcity in semiconductor chips, and noticed SharkNinja win some key battles to invalidate iRobot patents.

“IRobot stands by its more than 1,500 patents globally, including the five that it has asserted against SharkNinja at the ITC,” Charlie Vaida, a spokesman for Bedford, Massachusetts-based iRobot, mentioned in an announcement.

Officials with JS Global didn’t reply to requests for remark forward of the trial.

IRobot turned to the commerce company after failing to hobble SharkNinja with an earlier lawsuit nearer to dwelling. A federal decide in Boston in 2019 rebuffed iRobot’s request to order SharkNinja to cease promoting its merchandise whereas a lawsuit was pending.

It claims SharkNinja purposefully used iRobot innovations in “its lower-quality imitations, and quickly became the second-largest domestic player in the market segment” by advertising and marketing itself as a low-cost various. The iRobot i7 prices about US$600 (RM2,516) whereas the Shark Ion WiFi linked vacuum sells for lower than US$350 (RM1,467).

IRobot, based within the Nineteen Nineties by alumni of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, began life as a protection contractor making robots for the army and house exploration. The first Roomba ground vacuum was launched in 2002 and shortly took off with shoppers. By 2016, iRobot shed its protection and safety enterprise to focus solely on the house client market.

SharkNinja started within the Nineteen Nineties as a Canadian R&D agency referred to as Euro-Pro however now has its US headquarters within the Boston suburb of Needham, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from iRobot’s dwelling base. The firm’s title got here from a mixture of its Shark dwelling cleansing merchandise and the favored Ninja cooking home equipment. Hong Kong-based JS Global, which makes the Joyoung-branded kitchen equipment for the Chinese market and went public in 2019, purchased SharkNinja in 2017.

Both corporations have been aggressive in utilizing patents to shield their manufacturers from rivals, together with a now-settled 2019 lawsuit SharkNinja filed in opposition to movie star chef Emeril Lagasse over a rival to its Ninja Foodi equipment that mixes a strain cooker and air fryer.

The ITC is a well-liked discussion board for corporations trying to hamstring rivals. IRobot’s earlier patent instances on the company pressured Stanley Black & Decker Inc to cease promoting dwelling robotic vacuums and gained import bans on different corporations, together with Techtronic Industries Co’s Hoover and Shenzhen Silver Star. – Bloomberg



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