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KVH sues Datron unit in infringement case

UNION-TRIBUNE
February 23, 2000

VISTA -- A subsidiary of Vista-based Datron Systems Inc. has been sued by a rival satellite antenna company for patent infringement and breach of contract.

KVH Industries of Middleton, R.I., filed the lawsuit last week in a Rhode Island court against Datron/Transco Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Datron Systems.

According to KVH, Datron copied KVH's technology that allows dishes to receive signals simultaneously from two different types of satellites such as a TV satellite to receive programming and a communications satellite to transmit requests for data.

KVH, a publicly traded company with sales of $22.8 million last year, is seeking unspecified damages, which it wants tripled because it claims Datron willfully violated its patent.

"Datron was aware that KVH had a patent on this technology," said Chief Executive Martin Kits Van Heyningen. "I'm determined not to let our competitors unlawfully use KVH technology and claim it as their own."

William Stephans, chief financial officer for Datron, said the lawsuit involves technology that Datron doesn't currently have on the market.

"We've kind of confused ourselves," he said. "It's not a product we are currently selling."

Stephans declined further comment, other than to say, "We believe it is totally without merit and we will aggressively defend ourselves."

Datron has received a copy of the suit from KVH's attorneys. Both companies make mobile satellite application products -- in other words, television satellite systems for motor homes, vans, sport utility vehicles, boats and aircraft that allow these vehicles to receive TV signals while moving.

Datron also makes sophisticated communication radios for governments and large commercial customers. Its sales last year were $59 million. It employs 350 workers at plants in Vista and Simi Valley.

Datron closed unchanged yesterday at $13.621/2.

http://www.uniontrib.com/news/business/20000223-0010_1b23datron.html
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