The February 2000 cover of Sky & Telescope featured a Meade ETX telescope alongside a Celestron NexStar scope. The "Showdown" headline now seems prophetic. Since 2001 Meade and Celestron have been trading charges of patent infringement over technology incorporated into these very telescopes.

The multi-year legal battles between telescope giants Meade and Celestron have been mutually resolved. In an agreement announced on July 8th, each of the longtime rivals acknowledges the validity of specific patents held by its competitor. The settlement also calls for licensing agreements that allow both companies to continue manufacturing telescopes that were claimed to infringe on various patents, setting to rest earlier fears in the astronomical community that one or both companies might have to stop selling certain model telescopes.

Meade's president and CEO, Steve Murdock, characterized the agreement as very favorable for his company. "This settlement is, we believe, both a validation and a vindication of our longstanding commitment to protecting our intellectual property." Celestron's CEO, Joseph A. Lupica, also put a positive spin on the outcome, calling it a benefit for his company and stargazers in general, since it allows Celestron to redirect resources being spent on the lawsuits. "We look forward to focusing on creating the best possible products at the best possible price."

The legal battles began in late 2001 when, within hours of receiving a patent for technology used in its Go To telescopes, Meade slapped Celestron with an infringement lawsuit. Following that case was a volley of additional lawsuits between the companies, which at times threatened Celestron's right to manufacture Go To telescopes that directly competed with those in Meade's product lines.

While earlier court rulings found that Celestron did not "literally infringe" upon Meade's patents, the final settlement calls for Celestron to pay Meade a royalty on sales of its computerized telescopes on altazimuth mounts that use the popular "level and point north" procedure during setup. Meade, on the other hand, is granted royalty-free licenses to manufacture telescopes that involve designs and technology covered in several of Celestron's patents. The agreement also calls for both companies to "promptly dismiss with prejudice all claims and counterclaims in the pending litigation between them, including for past damages."

In other words — case closed.


You must be logged in to post a comment.