IRobot sues Hoover, other rivals over robot vacuum patents

Jan Wolfe

April 17 (Reuters) - IRobot, the maker of the popular Roomba

robotic vacuum, brought a string of lawsuits on Monday accusing

rivals including The Hoover Co and Black & Decker Corp of using

its patented technology without permission.

Bedford, Massachusetts-based iRobot filed lawsuits

in federal court in Boston against Hoover, Black & Decker,

Bobsweep Inc and Bissell Homecare Inc. IRobot said they infringe

on several of its patents covering the idea of an autonomous

floor-cleaning robot.

"iRobot will not stand by while others offer products that

infringe on our intellectual property," the company said in a

statement.

Representatives for Hoover, Black & Decker, Bissell and

Bobsweep did not immediately return a request for comment.

iRobot also sued China-based Shenzhen Silver Star

Intelligent Technology Co, which iRobot said manufactures Hoover

and Black & Decker vacuums.

One of the oldest and best-known makers of traditional

vacuums, Hoover is now owned by TTI Floor Care North America, a

subsidiary of Hong-Kong based Techtronic Industries Company

Limited.

Black & Decker is a subsidiary of New Britain,

Connecticut-based Stanley Black & Decker Inc.

IRobot created the market for robotic vacuums when it

launched Roomba in 2002 but has faced increased competition from

other appliance makers.

Hoover launched its line of Quest robotic vacuums, over

which iRobot is suing, in 2016. Other vacuums at issue in the

lawsuits are the Bissell SmartClean, Bobsweep's Bobi and Black &

Decker's BDH5000WM.

Residential robotic vacuums generated $1.5 billion in global

revenues in 2016, an amount expected to reach $2.5 billion by

the end of 2021, according to the market research firm Future

Market Insights. The overall market for household vacuums was

$12 billion in 2015, according to Global Market Insights,

another research firm.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)