Vector isn’t eager for legal fight with Lockheed Martin

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Even though Vector Launch filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Lockheed Martin, the Arizona startup is not eager to spend millions of dollars fighting the aerospace giant.
“We don’t want to be in lengthy litigation with Lockheed Martin,” Shaun Coleman, Vector co-founder, told SpaceNews. “We were forced into this situation and would love to resolve it.”
Vector filed a complaint April 5 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging Lockheed Martin infringed on three patents related to GalacticSky, Vector’s software-defined satellite technology.
Lockheed Martin declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Vector is widely known as a launch vehicle developer but it is actually a “space access company,” said Coleman, who is also GalacticSky chief marketing officer and general manager. Coleman also authored the patents that are the subject of Vector’s claim against Lockheed. Before joining Vector, Coleman, an angel investor and serial
entrepreneur, founded three startups including CloudVolumes, a software company acquired in 2014 by VMware.
Coleman, who met Jim Cantrell, Vector chief executive and co-founder, through their shared love of car racing, leads a team of 20 people at GalacticSky. Based in San Jose, California, GalacticSky focuses on the firm’s software-defined satellites, sales and marketing.
With GalacticSky, “you can skip satellite development and launch and upload your applications to a satellite,” Coleman said. Vector plans to launch its first GalacticSky prototype later this year. Production versions “are nominally scheduled to go up in 2020,” Coleman said.
Vector has filed more than 30 patents and has many more in the works, Coleman said. As of April 9, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had awarded Vector 12 patents related to GalacticSky and one for its
rocket engine.
Vector was not aware of Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat software-defined satellite project until it was announced March 20, Coleman said. In the wake of the Lockheed Martin announcement, Vector sent letters to the aerospace giant. Lockheed Martin acknowledged receipt of the letters but did not respond to Vector’s concerns regarding patent infringement, Coleman said.
As a result, Vector felt forced to file a lawsuit to protect its intellectual property, Coleman said. “We are a small innovative company. We came up with this idea first but Lockheed Martin can out-execute me every day of the week. We would much rather work with them,” he added.
Vector also took offense when Lockheed Martin pulled an April Fools’ Day prank, announcing it developed a fragrance called Vector. Many publications including SpaceNews published April 1 articles about the fragrance.
“Not only did they use our name, but the logo/wordmark of their prank product was stylized almost identically to our own wordmark,” Kim Jennet, Vector senior marketing director, said by email. “Intimidation comes in many forms, but this appears to us to be an attempt to diminish our brand and our status in the small launch vehicle and new space market.”
Meanwhile, Vector is plowing ahead with its campaign to begin sending satellites into orbit with Vector-R, its first launch vehicle scheduled to fly for the first time this year. The company also is developing a larger rocket, Vector-H. Vector announced in October it raised $70 million in a Series B funding round led by Kodem Growth Partners in conjunction with Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners.