A Twin Cities company is suing some of Minnesota's biggest retailers to keep them from selling drones made by one of the industry's biggest names.
QFO Labs said Monday the lawsuit has to do with its patent infringement claims against the French company Parrot, Inc. They're asking a federal court in Minnesota to order Target, Best Buy, and Amazon to stop selling drones they say illegally use technology that QFO developed.
QFO says about a dozen models of Parrot drones use tilt-to-fly controls that the small Bloomington company patented more than 15 years ago.
According to QFO its inventors developed the system as a substitute for the joystick early in the last decade, years before other tilt-based controllers like the Nintendo Wii hit the market.
"We’re a startup that’s not afraid to fight back against this big French company,” CEO Brad Pedersen said in QFO's statement. “We intend to defend the intellectual property we worked hard for years to develop and commercialize.”
Meanwhile Parrot, which is the world's second-largest maker of consumer drones, has asked both a federal court and the U.S. Patent and Trade Office to rule that its products do not violate QFO's patents, the Star Tribune reports.
Lots of money at stake
Companies are ready to fight for their share of the drone industry because it's one of the hottest segments in consumer tech.
The Consumer Technology Association says drones will be a popular Christmas gift and they're projecting sales in the fourth quarter will run 31 percent ahead of last year's pace, VentureBeat reports.
The research firm Gartner Inc. predicted early this year that the market for personal and commercial drones will reach $6 billion this year and will keep growing to more than $11 billion by 2020.
In 2012 QFO Labs launched its own quadcopter drone after raising money through a Kickstarter campaign. But CEO Pedersen says they've now shifted their focus to licensing their tilt-to-fly technology to other companies.