Celestron Claims Another Victory

'Showdown!'
Sky & Telescope's February 2000 cover featured a Meade ETX-125 (right) alongside a Celestron NexStar 5. The headline now seems prophetic.
The legal battles between telescope giants Celestron and Meade Instruments — involving charges of patent infringement for computerized Go To telescope technology — are continuing to be resolved by the courts. On May 23rd the US District Court in California delivered a partial summary judgment in Celestron's favor, saying that the company's Go To telescopes do not infringe on Meade's patents under the "doctrine of equivalents." In late February the court ruled that Celestron's products do not "literally infringe" upon Meade's patents. In each case the court expressly dismissed Meade's claims of infringement, further securing Celestron's right to continue manufacturing and selling its NexStar line of computerized telescopes.

While both rulings are clear victories for Celestron, they do not end the lawsuits between the archrival companies, which date back to 2001. Among the pending suits is one that involves the basic procedure used by both companies to initialize their telescopes for automated Go To pointing. According to Meade general counsel Mark Peterson, appeal of the recent court decisions, if requested, could not happen until rulings are issued for all pending suits.

In a statement released by Celestron, company president and chief executive officer Joseph A. Lupica called the most-recent ruling "a moral victory as much as it is a legal victory." With the roadway being cleared of legal hurdles that threatened to stop Celestron from marketing Go To telescopes that directly compete with Meade's product lines, Lupica commented, "let the real competition begin."