SmartSky‘s patent lawsuit against Gogo has grown. The company has asked the US District Court overseeing its case to add two more recently-issued patents as part of the infringement case. By increasing the number of patents at issue, SmartSky gains additional opportunities to win the suit; any one violation is sufficient for it to secure victory.
These new patents further protect our inventions from illegal use and make our infringement claims against Gogo even clearer for the court.– SmartSky Networks President & Founder Ryan Stone
The new patents SmartSky asked to add to the suit include U.S. Patent Nos. 11,558,108 (“the ‘108 Patent”) and 11,533,639 (“the ‘639 Patent”) issued to SmartSky by the U.S. Patent & Trademark office on Jan. 17, 2023, and Dec. 20, 2022, respectively.
The ‘108 patent covers the handoff of communications between the aircraft and ground stations. Most notably for this case, SmartSky says it covers all transitions, whether a “soft” handover known as make-before-break or a “hard” break-before-make cut between base stations. Gogo previously argued that SmartSky’s patents claimed in the case only covered soft handovers (which appears a questionable argument in its own right). With the ‘108 patent included in the case, SmartSky expects to eliminate that point of discussion from consideration.
The ‘639 patent covers the arrangement of antennae and radio transmissions from base stations to deliver an overlapping, wedge-shaped coverage pattern. SmartSKy argues that the Gogo 5G solution, when active, will violate this design.
Should the courts find that any one of the patents is violated, Gogo might be enjoined from selling and operating its Gogo 5G network. With an increased number of patents included, SmartSky’s case grows stronger.
Separately, SmartSky continues to pursue a preliminary injunction to prevent Gogo from selling its new services. Gogo previously received a favorable ruling in that portion of the case. SmartSky challenged the ruling with a federal appeals court panel. A ruling on that appeal is anticipated as early as Q2 2023.
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Half a billion dollars invested with nothing except some potentially invalid patents to show for it. Seems like another prime example of the investment community drinking their own koolaid
Seth Miller says
I, too, am shocked at how much cash SmartSky burned getting to this point.
But to say that there is nothing to show for it given the full network deployed, or that the patents aren’t going to hold when the only case to reach verdict so far has upheld them seems a strange conclusion to draw.
The story is far from over on this one.
A network based on 10 year old technology with no discernable customers….I don’t know what kind of return Smartsky could possibly offer their investors at this point given the market size. As far as the patent case, I agree with you that it is far from over in the sense it will take several months/years to conclude…but if Smartsky was likely to succeed there the judge would have ruled in their favor on the preliminary injunction and they wouldn’t have had supplement.
Seth Miller says
Getting something *only* 10 years old on to an airplane might be a new record. 😉
The system works, and it works far better than Gogo and the other naysayers claimed it would. Whether it is commercially successful in the end remains to be seen. And the lawsuit is likely to have a major say in that.
Speaking of the lawsuit, I think the distinction brought about over hard/soft handoff was a mistake by the judge, and that likely skewed the preliminary injunction ruling. Had there been an actual hearing rather than just filings and the judge’s ruling I think it might have been identified as an issue at the time and better argued from the SmartSky side. Or maybe not, but the new filing makes that a non-issue, assuming it is approved and the additional patents are included in the case, as they make both soft and hard handovers covered.
There are a lot of people with a lot of money riding on this on both sides of the case. I’m not one of them; I have zero dollars at stake. But I sure do enjoy watching the back and forth between the parties.
Claiming that beamforming and handover (which are fundamental to cellular communications, has been around for more than 50 years and has been incorporated into the 3GPP 5G standard), are a part of their IP is reflective of SmartSky’s efforts to distract from the real issue which is a lack of revenues. Building a 4G network is an achievement but it is too late as 5G and SATCOM solutions with improved throughput are deployed. Thus the value of their patents are declining every day as 5G supplants 4G. In sum, asserting claims cannot make up for failure to perform.