Come back with me, dear Fool, to the heady days of December 2007.

Back then, Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT) was enjoying successful partnerships with Deere (NYSE:DE), Boeing (NYSE:BA), and SAIC (NYSE:SAI). The threat from General Dynamics' (NYSE:GD) robotic division hadn't yet arisen, but iRobot was nonetheless fighting for survival, embroiled in a major legal dispute with former employee Jameel Ahed and his company, "Robotic FX."

Stop!
After leaving iRobot's employ, Ahed had set up his own shop. Allegedly using pilfered iRobot technology, he developed a clone to iRobot's successful PackBot robot, and began raking in big bucks marketing this "Negotiator" to U.S. law enforcement. Then Ahed went one step too far, horning in on iRobot's dominant position in the military robots market.

iRobot fought back by filing multiple lawsuits against Ahed and his company. iRobot quickly prevailed on all counts against its mini-nemesis. It won:

  • A permanent injunction forbidding Robotic FX from selling products incorporating iRobot trade secrets, including the Negotiator product.
  • An injunction against Ahed's competing against iRobot again for five years.
  • Dissolution of Robotic FX and a transfer of "certain residual assets" to iRobot.

It all happened so quickly that one risk I mentioned at the time -- that Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) might sue Robotic FX for patent infringement on its robot's controller -- never had time to materialize. I sure hope, though, that iRobot made sure whose IP it acquired, because ...

Haven't we met?
Fast-forward nine months, and take a gander at the press release iRobot issued on Wednesday. iRobot just "introduced" a "new" robot. But unless I'm mistaken, we've already met.

The robot's name is still "Negotiator." Its target market remains law enforcement and other public-safety organizations. Although iRobot makes no mention of the connection, I think there's little doubt that this is Ahed's baby in disguise.That tells me that all of those legal costs arising from its lawsuit against Robotic FX that iRobot complained of last year might as well have been termed "R&D." The effect is the same: a new product. A new market. New revenue streams and profits for iRobot.

Grand news all around -- even if it isn't really "news" at all.

Read all about it in:

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of iRobot. SAIC is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.