Endeavor Sues QinetiQ Over Stair-Climbing Robot Patents

Endeavor Robotics Scorpion stair-climbing robot

Endeavor Robotics has filed a complaint against QinetiQ North America and Foster-Miller Inc. alleging that QinetiQ infringed on two of Endeavor’s patents for stair-climbing mobile robots.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, the complaint alleges that QinetiQ infringed on Endeavor’s U.S. Patent No. 6,431,296, entitled “Robotic platform,” issued on Aug. 13, 2002, and Patent No. 8,074,752, entitled “Mobile robotic vehicle,” issued on Dec. 13, 2011.

According to the complaint, the ‘296 patent details “a method for operating an articulated tracked vehicle having one or more arms pivotally coupled to the main frame, sometimes referred to as a ‘flipper,’ which can be used to climb a series of stairs.”

The ‘752 patent describes “a method performed by a mobile robotic vehicle for climbing a stair using articulated arm(s) rotatable about an axis located rearward of the center of gravity of the robot chassis,” the complaint states.

Stair-climbing prototype at Washington event

QinetiQ CRS(I) Endeavor Robotics stair-climbing robot

Photo of the QinetiQ CRS(I) prototype, taken at the November 2018 “EOD Day on the Hill 2018” event in Washington, D.C. Source: Endeavor Robotics

Endeavor Robotics claims that “QNA has infringed and continues to infringe one or more claims of the ‘296 Patent by making, using (at least during testing and demonstrations in the United States), importing, selling and/or offering for sale devices which are covered by at least Claim 1 of the ‘296 patent.”

The complaint details that a photo of QinetiQ’s CRS(I) product, taken in November 2018 at a public event entitled “EOD Day on the Hill 2018” in Washington, D.C., illustrated that the CRS(I) is “an articulated tracked vehicle having a main tracked chassis and a pivoting forward arm to climb a series of stairs having a rise in elevation at a first stair and at each subsequent stair.”

The complaint also alleges that the CRS(I) “is a mobile robotic vehicle having a pivoting arm to climb a series of stairs,” which would infringe on Endeavor’s ‘752 Patent.

Endeavor’s stair-climbing robot complaint also states:

“On information and believe, the QNA CRS(I) Product climbs stairs by practicing the claimed method of driving a support surface of the vehicle over an underlying surface towards the stair, pivoting a trailing arm downward against the underlying surface and causing a forward end of the vehicle to raise up off the underlying surface, the trailing arm having a distal end that contacts the underlying surface forward of a center of gravity of the vehicle, further driving the support surface to cause the forward end of the vehicle to ascend a riser of the stair, the support surface generating sufficient traction against the riser to climb the riser as the support surface is driven, and pivoting the trailing arms so that the distal end contacts the underlying surface at a point behind the vehicle while the vehicle ascends the stair.”

Endeavor Robotics and QinetiQ North America are competing for a $429.1 million hybrid contract from the U.S. Army around the engineering and manufacturing of the Common Robotic System (Individual), or CRS(I). The two companies are competing in a 10-month run-off test of CRS(I) prototypes before the Army chooses one of the companies to carry out the rest of the contract, which ends Feb. 2, 2027. The Army announced the contract in April 2018, which means the end of the 10 months would be in late January or early February 2019.

Endeavor Robotics' Scorpion robot

The recently revealed Scorpion robot. Source: Endeavor Robotics

On Dec. 3, Endeavor revealed its design details and images of its Scorpion stair-climbing robot, which it developed for the CRS(I) program.

Endeavor said the “rugged, lightweight Scorpion features advanced mobility and manipulation capabilities,” with the ability to “traverse rough terrain, climb stairs, and operate in wet or submerged environments.”

The robot includes an open-architecture design and can be “repaired in the field using 3D-printed parts,” said the Chelmsford, Mass.-based company.

Endeavor Robotics is asking for a trial by jury on the claims, under Rule 38(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Endeavor is represented by Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP, and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP.

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