Space Data dudes say Google lifted Loon balloon tune

Suit claims Chocolate Factory stole idea for airborne ISP

Google parent company Alphabet has been hit with a lawsuit that claims the Mountain View ads giant stole the idea for its Project Loon network.

Space Data Corporation of Chandler, Arizona, claims that it holds patents covering a system for using balloons to carry broadband antennae to power a wireless data network. It has filed suit [PDF] for infringement in the Northern California District Court.

According to the complaint, Alphabet's Project Loon runs afoul of US Patent 6,628,941: "Airborne constellation of communications platforms and method" and Patent 7,801,522: "Unmanned lighter-than-air safe termination and recovery methods."

The patents were granted in 1999 for use with a pair of systems dubbed "SkySat" and "SkySite," which it now uses to provide data services to the US military.

According to Space Data, Google executives, including cofounder Sergey Brin, met with Space Data to discuss a business partnership in 2007 and 2008. Those talks included Space Data disclosing confidential details on its technology.

Rather than agree to a partnership, however, Space Data alleges that Google instead walked away from the talks and used the trade secrets it obtained from Space Data to develop its own balloon-based internet service in what would become known as Project Loon.

"Project Loon improperly and unlawfully utilizes Space Data's confidential information and trade secrets which Space Data disclosed to Defendant Google pursuant to a 2007 Mutual Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement," Space Data alleges in the complaint.

The complaint seeks damages for two counts of patent infringement, two counts of misappropriation of trade secrets, and breach of written contract.

Google has declined to comment on the matter. ®

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