Northwestern University Settles Robot Patent Claims Against Mitsubishi

Northwestern University has settled its dispute with Mitsubishi Electric over claims that its industrial robots infringe three of the university’s robotics patents.

Northwestern University had accused Mitsubishi of infringing patents related to collaborative robots that can safely interact with humans in a shared workspace. Northwestern University says its professors Michael Peshkin and Edward Colgate invented these collaborative robots, known as “cobots” for short. 

According to a court document filed on Tuesday, the university also settled related claims from a separate suit against Yaskawa Electric. Germany-based KUKA AG and Japan-based Fanuc Corp were also sued by Northwestern for allegedly infringing the same cobot patents, but these lawsuits remain ongoing. 

In total, four companies were sued by the university in February as it claimed that they infringed patents related to Peshkin’s and Colgate’s inventions. Northwestern says cobots are able to help human operators with industrial tasks and, unlike other industrial robots, cobots can work alongside humans safely. Peshkin and Colgate’s inventions have been labelled “groundbreaking”. 

Mitsubishi Electric has denied that its robots infringed and argued that the patents were invalid.

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