iRobot Gets “Unmanned Surge” Army Contract
For those following the iRobot trade secrets case against Robotic FX, Wired.com is reporting that the Army is now awarding the “unmanned surge” $286 million contract to iRobot. You can read the article here. The AP is also reporting this story here. Xconomy.com reports the story here and, if you are so inclined, has detailed coverage of the whole affair here.
If you haven’t been following this matter, back in September, the Army initially awarded the contract to Robotic FX, a small company run by a former engineer of iRobot named Jameel Ahed.
Shortly before the deal between Robotic FX and the Army was announced, iRobot sued Ahed and Robotic FX for theft of trade secrets, claiming that the design of the companies’ respective robots were similar. The lawsuit included a request to preserve all evidence–but, Ahed began destroying evidence anyway.
Because of Ahed’s actions, the Judge granted a temporary injunction that blocked the contract from being performed, and found that Ahed’s actions were a strong inference of guilt.
The Army, having no choice really, awarded the contract to iRobot today.
Interesting case. What’s most interesting is the common mindset of individuals, once they have been sued, that convinces them to destroy evidence which might indicate guilt. This is never a smart thing to do–this case demonstrates that spoliation of evidence is not effective because it creates an inference of guilt which will, in most cases, typically be stronger in the Judge’s or jurors’ eyes than any document, which might otherwise indicate guilt, can do on its own. For instance, a competent lawyer might still be able to argue that there was no trade secret protection for the subject documents and information because the company seeking protection did not take reasonable steps to protect the information, as required by statute. Or that the information was already in the public domain as a result of other third party contracts. However, if the information is destroyed outright, regardless of any actual guilt and/or argument that can be made, the inference of guilt will weigh more heavily.
Don’t destroy evidence. Besides being unethical it is also illegal and will generally achieve results similar to the results achieved by Jameel Ahed and Robotic FX.
We’ll keep you posted on how this impacts the litigation.