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The Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court is due to hear a lawsuit this week submitted by a hi-tech company accusing Israel Aircraft Industries of stealing its plans to develop a stationary airship to be used for surveillance purposes.
In its defense brief, the IAI said that it had not used the plaintiff's plan because it had proved to be faulty, and had developed a stationary airship based on a different concept.
The plaintiffs include scientist Meron Toval; Techtrends Management Consultants, owned by Mordechai and Jonathan Pasternak; and economist David Molner.
According to documents they submitted to the court, the concept of a geostationary airship was invented by Toval. It would be able to serve as a platform for cameras photographing the same site continuously at an altitude of 20 to 23 kilometers, whereas surveillance satellites can only photograph a particular site during part of each orbit they make around the earth.
To develop the idea, Tuval signed a partnership agreement with IAI on January 8, 1996.
The plaintiffs said that according to the agreement, if either side terminated the partnership and abandoned the agreement, it would relinquish all its rights and know-how in the project to the other partner.
On September 21, 1997, IAI informed Toval that it was abandoning the project. In the meantime, Toval had formed a partnership with Techtrends and Molner according to which the new partners would receive shares of the project's profits.
In 2002, the plaintiffs learned that the US Department of Defense was seeking bids for the development of a high altitude airship. More than a year later, the Globes daily reported that the Ministry of Defense wanted to join the project.
In February 2004, during an aeronautical and space industries conference, an IAI engineer revealed details of the company's airship project. According to the plaintiffs, "the plans were exactly the same, proving that it was the same project based on the same idea and principles" as Toval's.
In its response to the lawsuit, IAI said Tuval had lied when he told them his plan was a new invention. "At that time, several companies around the world were already involved in the development of balloons/geostationary airships," IAI said.
Meanwhile, the IAI had joined forces with an American company and began work on another airship concept called the Dolphin. The Dolphin, IAI said, was "completely different from the 'round ship,'" as it called Toval's project.
To support its assertion that Toval had lied when he claimed his design was a new invention, the IAI said its application for an international patent for the idea was rejected, "partly because there was nothing innovative in it and partly because it did not indicate inventive advance... To the best of IAI's knowledge, no patent was ever registered." According to Mordechai Pasternak, IAI applied for and received a US patent for Toval's plan.