Believe it or not, there really is more than one company using balloons to cover the world with Wi-Fi. Space Data Corp has sued Google, claiming that it stole the idea for Project Loon during a 2007 meeting. Apparently, Google had considered buying Space Data — which uses balloon technology to provide wireless for oil companies — almost a decade ago. Execs from the two companies met, supposedly shared trade secrets and signed a non-disclosure agreement, according to the lawsuit filed earlier this week. The lawsuit also cites two patents which predate Project Loon and which Google supposedly infringes.
There was another meeting a little later with demonstrations, pictures... and then no deal, despite a Wall Street Journal report on the meeting. Allegedly, Google began to work on Project Loon after breaking off talks with Space Data in early 2008.
One thing is for sure: Space Data's technology is not used with nearly as much frequency as Project Loon. It holds FCC licenses to provide wireless access in places like Alaska, but Project Loon has flown balloons over Australia, Indonesia and, most recently, Sri Lanka.
As with any huge company, this is far from the first time Google has been accused of stealing an idea. Architect Eli Attila has sued the company for taking too liberally from his work and the company was also sued over claims that Waze, which it bought, stole data from a competitor. But perhaps the best legal moment was when plaintiffs claimed Google wrote down plans to steal an idea on Post-its. Maybe Google needs to learn to give credit where it's deserved.