Google hands over 200 patents of failed Loon balloon project to SoftBank

  • Alphabet, Google’s parent company, announced it was ending its internet balloon spinoff, Loon, in January.
  • The tech giant transferred about 200 Loon patents to its Japanese business partner SoftBank.
  • Alphabet said it hopes to help climate researchers by making treasure troves of Loon data freely available.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has turned over about 200 patents associated with its failed internet balloon startup, Loon, to Japanese investment giant SoftBank.

Project Loon began as one of Alphabet’s Moonshot projects in its Google X experimental division (later known simply as “X”), which is home to other cool ideas like Google Glass, the car startup autonomous Waymo and the drone delivery company. Wing.

Loon, who hoped to do


broadband

most accessible using solar-powered balloons, stretches from X in 2018 and was listed as one of Alphabet’s “Other Bets.”

But Loon’s management said the company was winding down operations in January, following a “longer and riskier” path to viability than expected.

Loon Ball Team Google X

The project management team stands in the remains of a deflated Loon balloon

GoogleX


Alphabet has now transferred about 200 Loon patents to SoftBank, which took a $125 million stake in the company in 2019 and is developing its own aerial telecommunications technology through its subsidiary, HAPSMobile, the two companies announced Thursday. Neither company disclosed the terms.

As part of the “Loon Collection” legacy project, Google also announced that it would waive its rights to approximately 200 other Loon patents, issuing a “non-assertion covenant”, under which any individual or company may rely on his designs without fear of a lawsuit.

By effectively opening up a decade’s worth of data, the company said it hopes to help “future generations of engineers, communications experts and climatologists explore their own radical questions.”

“While the end result of Loon’s journey may not be what we hoped, there are important lessons Loon has learned along the way that have the potential to support the work of future explorers and innovators,” said one. company spokesperson.

For anyone wanting to get one last look at a Loon balloon in person, the Smithsonian Institute will soon feature one as part of its upcoming “FUTURES” exhibit.

Insider approached SoftBank for comment.

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