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Hughes Wins $154 Mil. Patent Case

April 3, 1999

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) _ Hughes Electronics Corp. collected $154 million from the federal government, ending a 26-year legal battle that centered on pioneering technology still used to position satellites in orbit, the company announced Friday.

Hughes sued the federal government in 1973, alleging the government used the technology without permission in the launch of dozens of communications satellites.

Hughes contended in the lawsuit that the technology, in which a single gas jet is used to position and orient a satellite so its antennas point toward Earth, made possible the satellite communications revolution.

``The basic concept is still being used today in some form,″ Hughes spokeswoman Marcy Woodhull said Friday.

Federal Claims Court Judge James Turner entered the $154 million judgment on March 12 and the money was paid to Hughes on Tuesday, Hughes said in a news release.

The positioning technology was invented in 1959 by Hughes scientist Donald Williams. It was first used in 1963 to position a satellite Hughes built for NASA.

The federal government challenged Hughes’ attempt to patent the technology, saying it should hold the patent since it was used first on a government spacecraft. Hughes won the patent in 1973 and filed the lawsuit that same year seeking damages for government use of the technology on non-Hughes satellites.

Federal attorneys argued the technology used in government satellites differed from that developed by Hughes.

Hughes, a unit of General Motors Corp., accepted a reported $75 million from Ford Motor Co. in 1989 to settle a similar case.

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