Roomba maker seeks to wipe out rival SharkNinja vacuums from the United States
The trial is iRobot’s latest effort in a multi-year battle to stem the growing threat from SharkNinja products – this time by seeking an import ban on models like the Shark ION, IQ and AI robotic floor cleaners. Wet / dry VacMop.
International Trade Commission judge MaryJoan McNamara is expected to release her findings by the end of April, with a final agency ruling expected on August 29. While the commission often pushes back its deadlines, the current timeline would mean a loss for SharkNinja would see its products stopped at the U.S. border and remove from store shelves ahead of the 2022 holiday shopping season.
“By using its patents to take SharkNinja out of the lucrative US robot vacuum market, iRobot could take over the $ 145 million in annual US premium product sales it lacks,” Tamlin Bason, analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said in a December 29 memo.
IRobot shares fell 18% in 2021, compared to a 29% increase in the S&P 500 index as the company lowered its forecast for the year. The company said it was grappling with a “tough supply chain environment,” including a shortage of semiconductor chips, and saw SharkNinja win key battles to invalidate iRobot’s patents.
“IRobot maintains its more than 1,500 patents around the world, including the five it has claimed against SharkNinja at the ITC,” said Charlie Vaida, spokesperson for iRobot, based in Bedford, Mass., in a press release.
JS Global officials did not respond to requests for comment ahead of the trial.
IRobot turned to the trade agency after failing to hamper SharkNinja with an earlier lawsuit closer to his home. A Boston federal judge in 2019 denied iRobot’s request to order SharkNinja to stop selling its products while a lawsuit was pending.
He claims that SharkNinja deliberately used iRobot’s inventions in “its substandard knockoffs and quickly became the second national player in the market segment” by presenting itself as a low cost alternative. The iRobot i7 costs around $ 600 while the Shark Ion Wi-Fi connected vacuum cleaner sells for under $ 350.
IRobot, founded in the 1990s by alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Artificial Intelligence Lab, began life as a defense contractor making robots for the military and space exploration. The first Roomba floor vacuum cleaner was introduced in 2002 and quickly caught on with consumers. In 2016, iRobot abandoned its defense and security activities to focus exclusively on the consumer market.
SharkNinja started in the 1990s as a Canadian R&D company called Euro-Pro, but its US headquarters are now located in the Boston suburb of Needham, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from iRobot’s headquarters. The company’s name comes from a combination of its Shark household cleaning products and popular Ninja cooking appliances. Hong Kong-based JS Global, which manufactures the Joyoung-branded kitchen appliance for the Chinese market and went public in 2019, purchased SharkNinja in 2017.
Both companies have aggressively used patents to protect their brands against their competitors, including a lawsuit now settled by SharkNinja against celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse over a rival to his Ninja Foodi appliance that combines a pressure cooker and an air fryer.
ITC is a popular forum for companies looking to cripple their rivals. IRobot’s previous patent cases with the agency forced Stanley Black & Decker Inc. to stop selling household robotic vacuum cleaners and secured import bans for other companies, including Hoover and Shenzhen Silver Star from Techtronic Industries Co ..
The case is In the Matter of Certain Robotic Cleaning Devices, 337-3530, United States International Trade Commission (Washington).