Connect with us


CesiumAstro claims former executive leaked trade secrets to start competitor AnySignal




CesiumAstro claims former executive leaked trade secrets to start competitor AnySignal

CesiumAstro alleges in a newly filed lawsuit that a former executive disclosed trade secrets and confidential information about sensitive technology, investors and customers to a rival startup.

Austin-based Cesium develops active-phased array and software-defined radio systems for spacecraft, rockets and drones. Although phased array antenna systems have been used on satellites for decades, Cesium has significantly improved and produced the technology in the seven years it has been in use. The startup has secured more than $100 million in venture capital and government funding, which it has used to develop a range of products for commercial and defense customers.

The technology is niche: only a handful of companies are working at the cutting edge of space radio technology, and Cesium is undoubtedly paying close attention to new entrants in this field. AnySignal, a startup that emerged from secrecy last October but was formally incorporated in 2022, certainly caught the company’s attention, not least because it reportedly outpaced Cesium in a sale offer to a major customer and by trying to arouse the interest of one of the companies. Cesium’s early investors – both examples mentioned in the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, filed on March 25, these examples are directly related to the misappropriation of trade secrets and confidential investor and customer information by former Vice President of Product Erik Luther, which Cesium claims subsequently disclosed to AnySignal. Interestingly, Luther did not leave Cesium to work for AnySignal, but instead took a role as head of marketing at a company that operates in a completely different sector. But the lawsuit says Luther had “personal ties” to AnySignal co-founders, having previously worked with AnySignal CEO John Malsbury at another company.

This resulted in AnySignal “recruiting and inducing Luther… to improperly disclose the confidential and trade secret information,” the lawsuit said. The CEO of AnySignal and CesiumAstro did not respond to JS’s request for comment; an attorney representing Luther referred JS to the March 29 legal documents cited below.

Cesium is clear about its position in the lawsuit: it does not believe AnySignal could have developed its complex radio technology on the agreed timeline and with existing resources – “without CesiumAstro’s technical diagrams and specifications (to which Luther had access).”

“With just a few employees and $5 million in investor funding, [AnySignal] would not even be in the same orbit as CesiumAstro, which has spent tens of millions of dollars working with (now) 170 employees for seven years developing its technologies,” the suit says. “But with Luther’s help, AnySignal has launched to compete directly with CesiumAstro in the specialized software-defined radio space.”

Luther vehemently denied all allegations in two separate documents filed with the court on March 29; regarding the claim that he worked with AnySignal, he says the accusation is “not only false… but invented out of hand.” (The response also denies Cesium’s claim that it is an “industry leader.”)

Cesium “does not cite any facts or evidence linking Luther to AnySignal’s business endeavors and the alleged evidence that [Cesium] doesn’t quote [its] allegations,” Luther’s lawyer claims in the file. He goes on to say that Cesium makes a Grand Canyon-sized leap from the meager, easily explained evidence it cites to the remarkable claim that Luther secretly aided and fed AnySignal. [Cesium’s] trade secrets without citing any evidence.”

El Segundo-based AnySignal was founded in May 2022 by Malsbury and COO Jeffrey Osborne, and emerged from stealth last year by touting $5 million in seed funding. The company is developing a software-defined radio platform; Cesium’s lawsuit calls it a “direct competitor.” In February, a month before the lawsuit was filed, AnySignal announced it had entered into a partnership with private space station developer Vast for an advanced communications system for Vast’s flagship station, Haven-1.

The lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Texas under docket docket 1:24-cv-314.