April 17, 2017 / 10:14 PM / in 7 months

IRobot sues Hoover, other rivals over robot vacuum patents

(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

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