ViaSat Reaches Settlement With Space Systems/Loral Over ViaSat Broadband Satellite Patents

Many broadcasters are familiar with ViaSat through use of its Ka-band satellites for IP-based SNG. ViaSat's EXEDE Ka-band satellite service provides high-speed Internet to consumers. ViaSat also provides satellite connectivity for the U.S. military. These services depend on ViaSat's high-capacity satellites. The first generation of satellites was built by Space Systems/Loral (SS/L). In April, 2014, a U.S. District Court in San Diego determined that SS/L breached its non-disclosure agreement with ViaSat by disclosing proprietary data to SS/L customer and ViaSat competitor Hughes Network Systems. The data was used to design Hughes Jupiter-1 (now EchoStar XVII) high-capacity satellite. The jury found that SS/L's design of Jupiter-1 infringed on three valid ViaSat patents. A second lawsuit covered additional ViaSat patents, alleging infringement by additional SS/L satellites, including Jupiter-2 (EchoStar XIX). This lawsuit was likely to go to trial in early 2016.

ViaSat announced last week that it had reached a comprehensive settlement of all outstanding claims related to the litigation. Rick Baldridge, president and COO of ViaSat, said, “We have worked hard and invested much to prove that ViaSat created and owns the critical enabling technology of the first-generation of high-capacity satellites built by SS/L, including ViaSat-1, Jupiter-1 and others still being manufactured and identified in the referenced suits. We believe this settlement is the largest ever in a commercial satellite communications intellectual property matter. It is a prudent solution that ends the distraction and cost of protracted litigation. The settlement also establishes an attractive economic value for our enabling technology that is in use among current and planned satellites, while allowing us to focus our full efforts on our next-generation, high-capacity satellite technologies.”

It isn't surprising that ViaSat isn't using SS/L for its next-generation satellite, ViaSat-2. It is being manufactured by Boeing. The first launch is scheduled for mid-2016.

Mr. Baldridge said, “We expect our ViaSat-2 generation of satellite systems to demonstrate dramatic improvements in several dimensions when compared to our first generation. Compared to prior generation satellite systems, we believe this new generation of high-capacity systems will have as much impact on satellite broadband as ViaSat-1 did upon its launch, and we are not stopping there. We are committed to continuing to advance the state of the art for satellite broadband technologies in consumer, mobile and enterprise markets.”

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.