Boston Dynamics wants to ensure its place in the creepy robot dog market. The tech company has filed a complaint against Philadelphia-based Ghost Robotics claiming that the latter has infringed on Boston Dynamics’ patents.
The complaint, which was obtained and reported on by The Register, alleges that Ghost Robotics copied Boston Dynamics’ schtick of a semi-autonomous robot dog with their Vision 60 and Spirit 40—a robot that resembles Boston Dynamics’ Spot. Boston Dynamics points out in the 110-page complaint that the way Vision 60 and Spirit 40 collect sight information, process environmental data, and even climb stairs could be an infringement of several patents the MIT spinoff has gotten approved since its founding in 1992. Boston Dynamics is also demanding a jury trial.
“Boston Dynamics, with its early roots in the robotics industry, has been and continues to be a pioneer and leading innovator in developing quadrupedal and bipedal robots,” the complaint reads. “Boston Dynamics’ early success with the Spot robot did not go unnoticed by competitors in the robotics industry, including Ghost Robotics.”
The Register points out that Ghost Robotics—and their terrifying robot dogs—have visited Tyndall Air Force base in Florida in 2021 to “add an extra level of protection,” according to an Air Force press release. Ghost Robotics also visited Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in 2020 to test out their dogs according to a Business Insider articlewhich also reports that the company received an Air Force contract in April of 2020.
Much the same way dogs are man’s best friend, Boston Dynamics and Ghost Robotics are law enforcement and armed forces’ best friends. As Gizmodo has covered extensively in the past, Boston Dynamics has cashed in on national security—having previously partnered with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on their Atlas disaster response robot. Ghost Robotics has also been teaming up with the armed forces as their technology is slated to help patrol the US southern border.
But when Boston Dynamics’ Spot originally went on sale, there was a can’t use it for evil clause. The company has been adamant about its robots not being used for weapons or to harm people, where as Ghost Robotics seems totally happy to go all-in on military. Still, the US Military’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency was an early backer of Boston Dynamics, but the company has since pivoted its focus to more civilian spaces. With that in mind, Boston Dynamics could be feeling the heat from a competitor in a space they typically control, hence the complaint.