Chicago-based GoGo, facing stiff competition as it looks to
maintain is place atop the in-flight wireless Internet market, is going on the
offensive against its old legal team, alleging its former lawyers failed to
adequately protect Gogo’s patents.
In a complaint filed Aug. 5 in Cook County Circuit Court, Gogo
alleged “fraud and legal malpractice” on the part of Squire Patton Boggs, of
Cleveland, and attorneys James M. Graziano and Scott A. Chambers. For more than
15 years, the defendants represented Gogo’s patent and trademark portfolios,
which largely cover the company’s wireless telecommunication technologies that
allow airline passengers to access wifi signals during flights, according to
Among the technology involved in the dispute are Gogo’s
ground-based systems that allow creation of Internet protocol networks on
airborne airliners to allow multiple devices to connect to the wifi network, as
well as those for managing emergency calls that come from the aircraft using its
Gogo paid the defendants more than $2.5 million in fees for
legal work and portfolio management. Gogo’s lawsuit alleged the defendants’
“outdated methods” and “negligent and baseless priority claims on several” Gogo
patent applications resulted in severely diminished patent value, including two
that allegedly “actually expired before they were even issued.” Further, Gogo
asserted Graziano and a former Gogo employee “formed and represented at least
two intellectual property companies specializing in wireless telecommunication
The complaint alleged that prior to forming one of those firms,
Vulano Group, Graziano engineer the sale of the other, Vesuvius, to Qualcomm, a
Gogo supplier. The chief assets in that sale, Gogo contended, were five
Vesuvius wifi patents.
One point of contention is the June 1995 change in U.S.
patent law that set the term relative to the patent’s priority date, not its
issue date. After the change, terms were limited to 20 years from the filing
date of the earliest application to which priority was claimed. The suit claims
the defendants continued to manage Gogo’s portfolio according to old rules,
“filing as many as 27 individual patent applications” through September 2011.
In some cases the lawyers claimed priority on patents that were so old the
patents issued to Gogo were already expired.
The complaint detailed a 2014 communication breakdown
between Gogo and its lawyers as the company sought clarification on the terms
of its patents. That August, Gogo moved its patent profile to Marshall, Gerstein
& Borun, including spending at least $10,000 to the new firm to investigate
the extent to which prior representation’s mismanagement devalued its patent
Ultimately, Gogo said its new representation determined two
patents were lost altogether, and between five and 17 others are now subject to
limited enforcement terms. They also alleged their business posture and market
position are compromised due to Graziano’s involvement with Vulano Group,
Vesuvius and Qualcomm.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of news that Gogo’s share of
the airline wifi market may be shrinking. Just two months before filing its complaint
against its ex-lawyers, Gogo lost out on a bid to provide wifi to 100 new
American Airlines planes. According to a June 3 report in the San Diego Union
Tribune, American opted for ViaSat, of Carlsbad, Calif., to outfit 100 Boeing
737 MAX aircraft with its satellite-based wifi network as opposed to Gogo’s
ground-based technology, already the standard in many of American’s 1,100 planes.
Gogo does have a satellite-based wifi approach in 134 Airbus Group craft in
In addition to a jury trial, Gogo seeks at least $50,000 in
damages, and wants the court to order Squire Patton to refund the money it paid
for patent portfolio management, plus punitive damages.
Representing Gogo in the complaint is the Patterson Law
Firm, of Chicago.