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iRobot Corporation (NASDAQ:IRBT) is off to a robust start this year, as shares have gained more than 17% year to date. Today was a particularly strong day for the robotics company. The stock climbed more than 9% to trade around $44.87 early this afternoon, after opening at $40.38 Thursday morning. This tops the fresh 52-week high the stock achieved earlier this week. Let's take a closer look at why iRobot is getting so much attention and where the stock is headed in the quarters to come.

The industry innovator 
While iRobot didn't release any new data today, it seems the market is still digesting news from earlier in the week. To be sure, investors pushed shares of iRobot higher today primarily because of renewed optimism about the company's patent portfolio.

On Tuesday, the Patent Board released its list of top patent portfolios within the electronics and instruments industry. iRobot ranked fifth overall for its patents, beating as many as 50 industry leaders for the spot. Additionally, the Massachusetts-based company also stole the No. 2 seat for "Science Strength" and placed third in the category of "Industry Impact."

Patents are critical to iRobot's success today, especially as deep-pocketed rivals such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) move into the robotics space. The search giant has been on an autonomous acquisition spree lately. In December, Google purchased robotics company Boston Dynamics for an undisclosed amount. Similar to iRobot, Boston Dynamics develops robots for use in military and combat situations.

Glen Weinstein, iRobot's executive vice president, explained the importance of patents to iRobot's ongoing success, saying, "The significant investments iRobot has made to protect its intellectual property will help the company sustain a long-term competitive advantage as the leading developer of robotic technology-based solutions."


Founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists, iRobot is on the cutting edge of robotics research. The company currently has 238 U.S. patents and more than 400 patents worldwide, many of which apply to iRobot's consumer products business. Looking ahead, iRobot has a strong product pipeline heading into the New Year. The company recently debuted its new wet floor scrubbing system as well as its new Roomba 800 series robot. Moreover, these innovations are key considering sales from iRobot's home cleaning machines currently account for as much as 90% of the company's total revenue. Ultimately, iRobot should be able to maintain its profitability thanks to new product launches in its autonomous home segment.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.