Update on December 26, 2019: Anki’s assets have been acquired by edtech startup Digital Dream Labs. Read Story.
StretchTech won its patent infringement lawsuit against Anki, the once-popular consumer robotics company that closed in April 2019. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled (PDF) Anki directly and indirectly infringed on the following three audio-related StretchTech patents:
- U.S. Patent No. 9,913,054 — System and method for mapping and displaying audio source locations (issued to StretchTech on March 6, 2018)
- U.S. Patent No. 9,042,563 — System and method to localize sound and provide real-time world coordinates with communication (issued to StretchTech on May 26, 2015)
- U.S. Patent No. 8,704,070 — System and method for mapping and displaying audio source locations (issued to StretchTech on April 22, 2014)
The Robot Report recently broke the news that Anki’s patent portfolio is up for sale. This ruling certainly won’t make potential buyers happy as it states Anki and its successors, among many other parties, are prohibited from “infringing any of the claims of the Asserted Patents in any manner, by making, using, or selling any products that fall within the claims of the Asserted Patents.”
In a separate ruling (PDF), the court “denied for now” a seizure order in favor of StretchTech. It said StretchTech can “re-apply for this relief following additional submissions to this Court.”
StretchTech filed the complaint on June 7, 2019. In the lawsuit, StretchTech said, “Since 2012, StretchTech has dedicated significant resources to developing and perfecting its sound sourcing technology. From its inception, StretchTech has been focused on enhancing the hearing capabilities of machines and computers to create the most natural way of communicating with technology. StretchTech’s patented proprietary hardware and software identify the locations of sound in any 3D space, giving computers similar functionality to the human ear.”
Anki was on the other side of a patent infringement case in 2015. It sued China Industries Ltd. for willful patent infringement in March, but the companies settled, and the case (PDF) was dismissed in December 2015.
Anki abruptly shut down despite raising about $200 million in funding. It made more than $325 million in revenue since it was founded in 2010. It made $118 million in gross revenue in 2018. A recent teardown video, however, shed light on the complex, costly manufacturing process involved with building Anki’s Vector robot.
Two of Anki’s co-founders have publicly acknowledged they have moved on. In August 2019, Hanns Tappeiner was named Director of Product Development at Apple’s Special Projects Group. Boris Sofman in June 2019 joined Waymo as its Director of Engineering, Head of Trucking.