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Boeing Satellite Unit Stole Trade Secrets, Suit Says

AssureSat claims in a L.A. Superior Court filing that technology it created was illegally obtained by Hughes.

May 28, 2003|Peter Pae | Times Staff Writer

A private El Segundo company that hoped to be the first to orbit backup rental satellites has filed a lawsuit against Boeing Co., alleging that the world's largest satellite maker stole its idea and then put it out of business.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court by AssureSat Inc. comes more than two years after the start-up firm lost key financing to launch the satellite operation.

In the lawsuit, AssureSat claims that executives at Hughes Space & Communications Co. -- which was acquired by Boeing in 2000 -- "blatantly" stole AssureSat's trade secrets while the two companies were discussing a potential venture.

AssureSat's business model was to develop and launch satellites that could be rented to firms whose own multimillion-dollar machines exploded after liftoff or stopped working.

Hughes executives signed a confidentiality agreement, according to the lawsuit, then broke it by filing for a patent for satellite technology the company had illegally obtained from AssureSat.

A Boeing spokesman said the company was reviewing the lawsuit, but could not comment on it.

AssureSat was founded by former Hughes executives. The lawsuit alleges that Hughes "completely destroyed AssureSat's potential to compete" by not agreeing to be one of its first customers.

Hughes "not only unjustly obtained the technological advantage that AssureSat spent significant time and over $15 million conceptualizing, developing and refining, but also eliminated a future competitor," the lawsuit contends.

The lawsuit adds to Boeing's recent legal woes. Three weeks ago, the Chicago-based firm revealed that it was under investigation by the Justice Department as a result of allegations that it used documents obtained from rival Lockheed Martin Co. to win a multibillion-dollar contract to build rockets for military satellites.

Boeing's shares were down 9 cents to $29.90 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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