Google’s revolutionary idea of internet-beaming balloon network, also known as Project Loon is in trouble.
Apparently, Space Data Corporation of Chandler, Arizona has filed a lawsuit against the search engine in California this Monday, alleging that the tech giant stole the idea behind its Wi-Fi-emitting balloon network.
The company, which also provides balloon-based wireless services, claims that it currently holds patents (filed in 1999) for a system based on a network of balloons, which carry broadband antennae to create a wireless data network in isolated and military locations. The firm is suing Alphabet for infringement in the Northern California District Court.
According to the lawsuit, Alphabet’s Project Loon infringes the copyright of U.S. Patent 6628941: Airborne constellation of communications platforms and method and U.S. Patent 7801522: Unmanned lighter-than-air safe termination and recovery methods. The complaint seeks damages for two counts of the patent breach, two counts of misappropriation of trade secrets, and infringement of written contract.
The patents were granted for use with two systems, known as SkySat and SkySite, which Space Data uses to provide balloon-based data services to U.S. armed forces. The company also holds licenses from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deliver broadband spectrum services across secluded areas of Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.
Interestingly, Space Data further states in the complaint that Google’s senior executives, including co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had met with the Space Data team in 2007 to discuss potential partnerships. They supposedly shared trade secrets and signed a non-disclosure agreement thinking that its ideas were protected by the agreement.
However, Mountain View, California company didn't invest in Space Data and pulled out of the deal. Allegedly, the search giant then began to work on Project Loon in early 2008. The complaint explains that the company instead chose to steal trade secrets and began developing its own balloon network in 2011, which has since known as Project Loon.
According to the lawsuit, Project Loon inappropriately and unlawfully used Space Data’s highly sensitive information and trade secrets which Space Data revealed to Defendant Google pursuant to a 2007 Mutual Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement.
Google is yet to comment on the case.
What’s notable here is that Space Data’s technology is not utilized with nearly as much frequency as Project Loon. Project Loon has expanded the service in a few countries such as Australia, Indonesia and, most recently, Sri Lanka. It is also making efforts to launch in India.