The makers of one Robo-sniper dog are in the doghouse over patent infringement. There’s a couple breeds of armed robotic canine-replacement, a purebred Ghost Robotics version used by the U.S. Military and other security professionals, and a mongrel some Russian patched together. Both of them are based on the same underlying Boston Dynamics model. The original is suing Ghost Robotics for infringing on their design. They’ll probably do the same to the Russian when they find him, if he hasn’t been killed in Ukraine.
Violated the patent
The New York Police department made some controversial headlines, when they experimented with some unarmed Boston Dynamics robo-dogs last year. Ghost Robotics liked the idea so much they strapped on some weaponry and got themselves a government contract.
They also got slapped with a lawsuit in Delaware court this week, it was reported on November 19. The pacifist minded designer and patent holder is not happy with the weaponized models. Not one bit.
Boston Dynamics filed a lawsuit against Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics, alleging that they violated more than one patent Boston Dynamics holds on its “quadrupedal robot designs.” Making them “available to be deployed for violent purposes” is even worse.
They’re really cheesed off about that part. “We believe that adding weapons to robots that are remotely or autonomously operated raises new risks of harm and serious ethical issues.”
In October, they wrote an open letter on the subject declaring “weaponized applications of these newly-capable robots will also harm public trust in the technology in ways that damage the tremendous benefits they will bring to society.”
If you want to do that, design your own bleeping robot. Otherwise you’ll get sued for patent infringement.
Air Force already paid for them
Ghost Robotics has a huge problem now. They won’t be able to lease a patent or two from the holder because they’re non-violent.
They need to either come up with a new design fast, hire really good lawyers to defeat the lawsuit, or hand a huge chunk of money back to the Air Force, most of which is already spent.
Ghost “made headlines after showing off a robot dog with an automated rifle mounted on its back at a Washington DC trade show.” They had the Air Force contract before the show was over. Their late CEO, Jiren Parikh, “has historically downplayed the company’s weaponization of its robots.”
He told TechCrunch “we’re selling to the military, we don’t know what they do with them. We’re not going to dictate to our government customers how they use the robots.” The problem is they don’t hold the patent to make them.
Before they filed in patent court, Boston Dynamics sent a nasty little letter to Ghost Robotics, “asking the company to review its patents.” Then came “a series of cease and desist letters that went unanswered.”
Now, they’re in court. “We welcome competition in the emerging mobile robotics market, but we expect all companies to respect intellectual property rights, and we will take action when those rights are violated.”