ViaSat Inc. Sues Loral for Patent Infringement
PARIS — Satellite broadband provider ViaSat Inc. has filed a patent infringement lawsuit in a California court against satellite builder Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) alleging that SS/L used ViaSat-owned technologies in other customers’ satellites, Loral said Feb. 3.
The two companies have agreed to try to resolve the matter out of court and will defer legal proceedings pending a resolution of these negotiations, SS/L owner Loral Space and Communications said in a submission to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
“The complaint seeks, among other things, damages (including treble damages with respect to the patent infringement claims) in amounts to be determined at trial, and to enjoin SS/L from further infringement of the ViaSat patents and breach of contract.”
Carlsbad, Calif.-based ViaSat had said in 2009 that it viewed the similarities between its ViaSat-1 broadband satellite and competitor Hughes’ Jupiter spacecraft as suspicious.
SS/L is prime contractor for both satellites. ViaSat-1 was launched in October and in January began providing commercial service to subscribers to ViaSat’s WildBlue consumer broadband provider in the United States.
Germantown, Md.-based Hughes’ Jupiter satellite, which was ordered after ViaSat-1, is scheduled for launch later this year.
Both satellites are among the first of a new generation of high-throughput Ka-band broadband spacecraft that their owners hope will give consumers an Internet experience that more closely resembles that provided by terrestrial technologies. Both satellites are designed to deliver some 140 gigabits per second of throughput — 14 times what is offered by Hughes’ Spaceway 3 satellite, which itself is considered a high-capacity spacecraft.
ViaSat Chairman Mark D. Dankberg had said in 2009 that ViaSat would await the award of several pending patents related to ViaSat-1 before determining whether to make a formal complaint to SS/L.
SS/L officials at the time said they were aware of ViaSat’s concerns but that the manufacturer had respected nondisclosure agreements, and ViaSat’s intellectual property rights, in bidding for and winning the Jupiter contract from Hughes.
In its SEC filing, Loral said “SS/L believes that it has meritorious defenses and counterclaims to ViaSat’s claims. SS/L believes that its conduct was consistent with, and in due regard for, any applicable and valid intellectual property rights of ViaSat.”
Both ViaSat and Hughes are preparing to order additional high-throughput Ka-band broadband satellites, whether to provide in-orbit backup to their in-orbit spacecraft or, in the case of Hughes, to expand their satellite broadband service in South America or India.
Several other satellite operators are preparing their Ka-band broadband spacecraft in Africa and the Pacific Ocean region. Palo Alto, Calif.-based SS/L is a likely bidder for several of these contracts.