Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc are being sued by a US-based company called Space Data Corporation over claims the search giant stole the idea for Project Loon from them. The court case complaint is available here.
According to a report in The Verge, Space Data Corporation alleges in its complaint against Google, it was they who had developed the technology nearly a decade back, and were in talks with with the search giant as well.
The complaint states Google’s Project Loon is based on Space Data’s patents for providing connectivity through a balloon network, one being filed in 1999, and the second in 2001. The report on Verge, points out both patents predate Loon, “and the company does not appear to have licensed either one.”
Space Data makes two products — SkySat and SkySite — and both help provide balloon-based connectivity. According to the lawsuit, they are “licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide narrow band personal communications services nationwide, and have broadband spectrum licenses in remote and rural areas such as Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.”
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Space Data says it started offering commercial wireless services in 2004 from a constellation of altitude controlled balloons, which drift in the stratosphere. This is similar to how Google’s Project Loon aims to provide Internet from the skies.
Space Data’s complaint lists out how their balloons work “… balloon-borne system is one type of stratospheric high altitude communications platform. A constellation of approximately 70 balloons can provide ubiquitous wireless coverage in the continental United States for voice and data services.”
The company says they had signed an NDA with Google in 2007, and shared trade secrets with them when in 2008, Google co-founder Larry Page and Sergey Brin visited their headquarters as well, showing interest in their technology.
However later on Google terminated all discussions with Space Data because of an article in Wall Street Journal, which hinted the search giant was interested in the technology.
Google has not yet commented to the media on the lawsuit. In India, Google’s Project Loon has also been facing scrutiny over spectrum sharing, and the government asked it to submit a revised proposal with a change of the frequency band.