Author Topic: Inter Partes Review of Blue Origin Sea Landing Patent - Petition & Exhibits  (Read 25985 times)

Offline AJW

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Below is a link to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) docket for the SpaceX requested review of Blue Origin's Sea Landing patent.  I am just starting to read the petition and exhibits and SpaceX is going after all of the original claims.  The key strategy appears to be that the patent claims indeed fail both the prior art and the non-obvious requirement.

https://www.docketalarm.com/cases/PTAB/IPR2014-01376/Inter_Partes_Review_of_U.S._Pat._8678321/

The website only allows a limited number of viewings of documents.  Perhaps someone with a membership can provide us with a full set.  Attached is a somewhat badly formatted version of the petition minus diagrams.

« Last Edit: 09/02/2014 04:11 AM by AJW »

Offline CameronD

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Interesting reading!

I especially liked this bit from the first Exhibit:  "The sea-going platform can broadcast its real-time position to the booster stage so that the booster stage can compensate for errors in the position of the sea-going platform due to current drift and/or other factors. After landing, the sea-going platform can be towed by, e. g., a tug, or it can use its own propulsion system, to transport the booster stage back to the coastal launch site or other site for reconditioning and reuse."  If that's what they're planning, that's pretty cool.  8)
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline QuantumG

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vs U.S. Patent No. 8,678,321 to Jeffrey P. Bezos et al.

Grounds:
Claims 1-3 Are Anticipated by Ishijima.
Claims 8, 9, 12, and 13 Are Obvious over Ishijima in view of Lane.
Claims 4 and 5 Are Obvious over Ishijima in view of Mueller ‘653.
Claim 6 is Obvious over Ishijima in view of Kindem.
Claim 7 is Obvious over Ishijima in view of Spencer, further in view of Waters.
Claim 11 is Obvious over Ishijima in view of Lane, and further in view of Waters.
Claim 10 is Obvious over Ishijima in view of Lane, and further in view of Mueller ‘653.

Referring to:

Yoshiyuki Ishijima et al., Re-entry and Terminal Guidance for Vertical-Landing TSTO (Two-Stage to Orbit) (first page mentions "tanker or pontoon" at sea), A Collection of Technical Papers Part 1, AIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference and Exhibit, A98-37001 (“Ishijima”)

U.S. Patent No. 5,873,549 to Jeffery G. Lane et al. (“Lane”)

U.S. Patent No. 5,927,653 to George E. Mueller et al. (“Mueller ‘653”)

U.S. Patent No. 6,024,006 to Bjørn Kindem et al. (“Kindem”)

Jack Waters, et al., Test Results of an F/A-18 Automatic Carrier Landing Using Shipboard Relative GPS, Proceeding of the ION 57th Annual Meeting and the CIGTF 20th Biennial Guidance Test Symposium (2001) (“Waters”)

U.S. Patent No. 6,450,452 to Robert B. Spencer et al. (“Spencer”)

also mentioned:

U.S. Patent No. 8,047,472 to Vance D. Brand et al. (“Brand”)

« Last Edit: 09/02/2014 04:18 AM by QuantumG »
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline AJW

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Interesting to compare the Ishijima launch diagram from his 1998 book to the Blue Origin patent diagram filed in 2010.

Offline AJW

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Interesting reading!

I especially liked this bit from the first Exhibit:  "The sea-going platform can broadcast its real-time position to the booster stage so that the booster stage can compensate for errors in the position of the sea-going platform due to current drift and/or other factors. After landing, the sea-going platform can be towed by, e. g., a tug, or it can use its own propulsion system, to transport the booster stage back to the coastal launch site or other site for reconditioning and reuse."  If that's what they're planning, that's pretty cool.  8)

I can't get to the exhibits right now but they may be going after this patent claim based on the following...

Jack Waters, et al., Test Results of an F/A-18 Automatic Carrier Landing Using Shipboard Relative GPS, Proceeding of the ION 57th Annual Meeting and the CIGTF 20th Biennial Guidance Test Symposium (2001) (“Waters”)

Offline Helodriver

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After looking at these diagrams, when this is all over and the Blue Origin patent is struck, Elon Musk owes Yoshiyuki Ishijima a lifetime supply of his favorite beverage.

Offline QuantumG

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After looking at these diagrams, when this is all over and the Blue Origin patent is struck, Elon Musk owes Yoshiyuki Ishijima a lifetime supply of his favorite beverage.

It's not uncommon for the first few claims of a patent to be boilerplate.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline CameronD

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Interesting to compare the Ishijima launch diagram from his 1998 book to the Blue Origin patent diagram filed in 2010.

To be fair on BO, it wouldn't be the first time someone's (1) come up with a brilliant idea, (2) engaged a Patent Lawyer to check all known documentation and draft up a new application and (3) actually submitted the application for Patent - before realising that someone else had exactly the same idea a decade or more earlier but didn't take it any further, usually due to 'deficiencies in current technology' or the like.

ISTM that's basically what's happened here - and hopefully all parties come to a reasonable agreement.

« Last Edit: 09/02/2014 05:20 AM by CameronD »
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline QuantumG

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I think the entire house of cards is about to fall.  A handful of prior art examples have torn apart most of Blue Origin's claims, and the remainder are so weak they will fail as 'obvious to a person of ordinary skill'.  The only real question remaining is how long will it take the Appeal Board to decide that all of the original claims are unpatentable.

I don't think their prior art is much more significant than the prior art cited in the patent. Blue Origin's response will most likely be of the form: Ishijima = ref 3, Lane = ref 7, Mueller ‘653 = ref 4, Kindem = ref 6, etc. Then they'll spell out why what they're claiming is different.
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline CameronD

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I think the entire house of cards is about to fall.  A handful of prior art examples have torn apart most of Blue Origin's claims, and the remainder are so weak they will fail as 'obvious to a person of ordinary skill'.  The only real question remaining is how long will it take the Appeal Board to decide that all of the original claims are unpatentable.

I don't think their prior art is much more significant than the prior art cited in the patent. Blue Origin's response will most likely be of the form: Ishijima = ref 3, Lane = ref 7, Mueller ‘653 = ref 4, Kindem = ref 6, etc. Then they'll spell out why what they're claiming is different.

..or, since all of the 'evidence' presented by SpX is 'public knowledge', they'll simply forfeit and go back to building rockets - knowing that SpX (or anyone else) can't patent the idea either.
« Last Edit: 09/02/2014 05:57 AM by CameronD »
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline AJW

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Interesting to compare the Ishijima launch diagram from his 1998 book to the Blue Origin patent diagram filed in 2010.

To be fair on BO, it wouldn't be the first time someone's (1) come up with a brilliant idea, (2) engaged a Patent Lawyer to check all known documentation and draft up a new application and (3) actually submitted the application for Patent - before realising that someone else had exactly the same idea a decade or more earlier but didn't take it any further, usually due to 'deficiencies in current technology' or the like.

ISTM that's basically what's happened here - and hopefully all parties come to a reasonable agreement.

Discussions questioning the validity of this patent go back years, and BO would have been aware of the prior art long before this petition.  The 'reasonable' thing to do would have been to withdraw the patent, but Bezos instead forced SpaceX to expend tens of thousands in legal fees and filing fees and very likely pulled engineering and management resources away from mission critical tasks.

Bezos tied up the decision on 39A for months delaying SpaceX's efforts to open a pad for HSF.  He could halt or delay actual landing tests if the patent appeal board is unable to process the petition before the CRS-4 launch.

Hanlon's Razor states to never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.  Few will accuse Bezos of being stupid. 

Offline QuantumG

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Discussions questioning the validity of this patent go back years, and BO would have been aware of the prior art long before this petition.  The 'reasonable' thing to do would have been to withdraw the patent

I'm unaware of that process.

Oh, wait, here it is: http://bit.ly/Y7xIr4
« Last Edit: 09/02/2014 06:18 AM by QuantumG »
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline CameronD

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Discussions questioning the validity of this patent go back years, and BO would have been aware of the prior art long before this petition.  The 'reasonable' thing to do would have been to withdraw the patent, but Bezos instead forced SpaceX to expend tens of thousands in legal fees and filing fees and very likely pulled engineering and management resources away from mission critical tasks.

Bezos tied up the decision on 39A for months delaying SpaceX's efforts to open a pad for HSF.  He could halt or delay actual landing tests if the patent appeal board is unable to process the petition before the CRS-4 launch.

?!? ???

Over on this side of the planet we have names for people like that..  none of them terribly friendly or supportive. :(

« Last Edit: 09/02/2014 07:00 AM by CameronD »
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline meekGee

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Interesting to compare the Ishijima launch diagram from his 1998 book to the Blue Origin patent diagram filed in 2010.

To be fair on BO, it wouldn't be the first time someone's (1) come up with a brilliant idea, (2) engaged a Patent Lawyer to check all known documentation and draft up a new application and (3) actually submitted the application for Patent - before realising that someone else had exactly the same idea a decade or more earlier but didn't take it any further, usually due to 'deficiencies in current technology' or the like.

ISTM that's basically what's happened here - and hopefully all parties come to a reasonable agreement.

Discussions questioning the validity of this patent go back years, and BO would have been aware of the prior art long before this petition.  The 'reasonable' thing to do would have been to withdraw the patent, but Bezos instead forced SpaceX to expend tens of thousands in legal fees and filing fees and very likely pulled engineering and management resources away from mission critical tasks.

Bezos tied up the decision on 39A for months delaying SpaceX's efforts to open a pad for HSF.  He could halt or delay actual landing tests if the patent appeal board is unable to process the petition before the CRS-4 launch.

Hanlon's Razor states to never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.  Few will accuse Bezos of being stupid.

Agreed on Bezos's motivation, but it will be difficult for him to get a court order to stop SpaceX, since he has to show some fundamental harm to BO that cannot be later remedied by royalties/penalties - and since he's not even close to flying, he won't get it.
ABCD - Always Be Counting Down

Offline Oort Cloud

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Given everything that has been said above, it would seem a bit silly that it has gotten to this stage. It's not as if SpaceX could even be intimidated by the fear of legal costs etc, as perhaps some budding start-ups might be.

The real motivation would seem to be BO trying to give themselves more credibility than they deserve. Their narrative being something like "we are working on really clever, innovative stuff, and Musk is so scared that he has to resort to the lawyers".

Never mind that BO are "kinda thinking about it" whereas SpaceX could be days away from their first solid surface recovery.

« Last Edit: 09/02/2014 05:00 PM by Oort Cloud »

Offline sugmullun

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It seems sooo obvious that landing barges would be a naturally following, possible, solution to the technical and safety issues of reusability that
I doubt that B.O. has a (landing) legal leg to stand on. :)

Edit:
I wasn't going to add this, but I can't stand it...
I've been around a while and decades ago, before it started wierding out, I read a LOT of Sci-fi, Pop Sci, etc.
and I'm sure, but can't prove it, that some form of this idea has been around a long time.
« Last Edit: 09/02/2014 05:52 PM by sugmullun »

Offline AJW

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I think the entire house of cards is about to fall.  A handful of prior art examples have torn apart most of Blue Origin's claims, and the remainder are so weak they will fail as 'obvious to a person of ordinary skill'.  The only real question remaining is how long will it take the Appeal Board to decide that all of the original claims are unpatentable.

I don't think their prior art is much more significant than the prior art cited in the patent. Blue Origin's response will most likely be of the form: Ishijima = ref 3, Lane = ref 7, Mueller ‘653 = ref 4, Kindem = ref 6, etc. Then they'll spell out why what they're claiming is different.

Could you spell out why what they are claiming is different with a few examples?


Offline JasonAW3

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You know, a lot of Science Fiction authors described a number of different ways, from the 1930's until about the late 1950's, to recover stages that sound a LOT like this.

If anything, the basic method is in the public domain.  And pushed further, DARPA developed the technique with the DC-X experimental rocket.  Heck, even sea launch and recovery has been covered in Science Fiction stories.

Heck, for THAT matter, there are even pictures that were made showing a single stage to orbit craft launching and landing on a specially modified aircraft carrier.  (I think Convair was working on that one, if memory serves).

So this landing concept has pretty much been in the public domain for decades.  So, unless they get the same judge that decided that the Newspad from the movie 2001 wasn't similar enough to the Ipad to invalidate Apple's attempt at patenting the appearence of the Ipad, I think Blue Origin may be aout of luck on this one.
My God!  It's full of universes!

Online CraigLieb

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You know, a lot of Science Fiction authors described a number of different ways, from the 1930's until about the late 1950's, to recover stages that sound a LOT like this.

If anything, the basic method is in the public domain.  And pushed further, DARPA developed the technique with the DC-X experimental rocket.  Heck, even sea launch and recovery has been covered in Science Fiction stories.

Heck, for THAT matter, there are even pictures that were made showing a single stage to orbit craft launching and landing on a specially modified aircraft carrier.  (I think Convair was working on that one, if memory serves).

So this landing concept has pretty much been in the public domain for decades.  So, unless they get the same judge that decided that the Newspad from the movie 2001 wasn't similar enough to the Ipad to invalidate Apple's attempt at patenting the appearence of the Ipad, I think Blue Origin may be aout of luck on this one.

not for orbit, the machine had counter rotating props!

Convair XFY-1 Pogo..
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convair_XFY_Pogo

fairly cool image at: 
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Convair_XYF-1_Pogo.jpg


Colonize Mars!

Offline Elmar Moelzer

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I think the thing was also described by Gary Hudson.

Offline RanulfC

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Heck, for THAT matter, there are even pictures that were made showing a single stage to orbit craft launching and landing on a specially modified aircraft carrier.  (I think Convair was working on that one, if memory serves).

Close, it was Douglas and it was a smaller version of the Ithacus VTVL Inter-Continental Troop Transport (ICTT) concept called the Ithacus-Junior. (http://www.fantastic-plastic.com/IthacusSSTOCatalogPage.htm) It took OFF from a modified Enterprise class carrier, (nuclear power was required to make the LH2 and LOX from seawater) and the idea was to "salvo" launch two of them to any hot-spots within range. They would land and then "self-ferry" to the nearest shoreline for pick-up and transportation back to the US where they would be re-boarded on the launch ships.
(Launch shown here: http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/ithacus.htm)
Quote
So this landing concept has pretty much been in the public domain for decades.  So, unless they get the same judge that decided that the Newspad from the movie 2001 wasn't similar enough to the Ipad to invalidate Apple's attempt at patenting the appearence of the Ipad, I think Blue Origin may be aout of luck on this one.

Wasn't there a thread on all this when the patents were first applied for? I seem to recall it was argued extensivly then that pretty much NOTHING the Blue Origin has applied for was in fact "patentable" under the law given the lack of back-ground checks on the given proposals.

Randy
From The Amazing Catstronaut on the Black Arrow LV:
British physics, old chap. It's undignified to belch flames and effluvia all over the pad, what. A true gentlemen's orbital conveyance lifts itself into the air unostentatiously, with the minimum of spectacle and a modicum of grace. Not like our American cousins' launch vehicles, eh?

Offline AJW

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Just spotted this, "Blue Origin has three months to provide a preliminary response." 

That creates a likelihood that SpaceX will have to decide whether to attempt a landing in violation of the patent as issued.

Offline RanulfC

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Just spotted this, "Blue Origin has three months to provide a preliminary response." 

That creates a likelihood that SpaceX will have to decide whether to attempt a landing in violation of the patent as issued.

Hey go for it I say! We went through this whole mess once before with the whole Wright-vs-Curtiss (and through him the world) thing and it cost us the lead in aviation for the better part of two decades.

Randy
From The Amazing Catstronaut on the Black Arrow LV:
British physics, old chap. It's undignified to belch flames and effluvia all over the pad, what. A true gentlemen's orbital conveyance lifts itself into the air unostentatiously, with the minimum of spectacle and a modicum of grace. Not like our American cousins' launch vehicles, eh?

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Recommend not playing patent lawyer here. Even if you ARE a patent lawyer :)

Keep in mind that patent litigation has had to address a interesting Supreme Court case which was a significant rebuke of past practices. It has far reaching consequences we are still discovering.

From my perspective, this case has several unique features with claimants/litigants. The most significant is that SpaceX is already landing first stages from orbital flight, even though they are landing in the water. Secondly, the somewhat generic aspect of the claims is EXACTLY what the above mentioned rebuke was addressing.

The intent of the US patent system is to enhance the development of novel work, not forestall it. In the answer that BO will need to provide will be a strong position on how they are doing so.

Likely SpaceX can show a pattern of BO attempting to "slow them down", obviously that happened with Pad 39A, but there are other examples. If BO was as far ahead as SpaceX, it would be a better horse race to watch.

As to landing with CRS 4 mission, first stage landings are still novel so it is applied research so no not an issue for infringement. And it would tend to buttress the case for SpaceX if they actually bring it off and BO can't come near.

Where the issue might come is if they abstract a commercial, ongoing benefit. However, even if they did and translated to a different not infringing approach, it would be of minor consequence.

The hardest case for SpaceX would be where they can't bring anything off here, BO could and does make it an effective part of its activities that eventually become significant. Then SpaceX would appear to be the "obstructor".

Bezos however often gets caught with these things. He's often too cynical and a bit of a bottom feeder with IP.

My expectation is that it will be like the Pad 39A story - long, drawn out, and unspectacular conclusion.

Offline fthomassy

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Recommend not playing patent lawyer here. Even if you ARE a patent lawyer :)
... SNIP
As to landing with CRS 4 mission, first stage landings are still novel so it is applied research so no not an issue for infringement.
Probably lawyer territory but I was trying to Google along this line and coming up blank when your post appeared.  What is the defining difference between "I'm just playin'", a.k.a. applied research, and infringing?
gyatm . . . Fern

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Recommend not playing patent lawyer here. Even if you ARE a patent lawyer :)
... SNIP
As to landing with CRS 4 mission, first stage landings are still novel so it is applied research so no not an issue for infringement.
Probably lawyer territory but I was trying to Google along this line and coming up blank when your post appeared.  What is the defining difference between "I'm just playin'", a.k.a. applied research, and infringing?
Like playing anything else, its in the "conclusion" made.

Lets say you are working on a manufacturing process for some material. To become a subject matter expert, you study existing techniques and processes, ones that may be known and patented, ones that might not. You may discover that how they work isn't as expected. You may find that there's a better way that works by different rules, that may in some way awkwardly resemble other ways.

A patent attorney is the one who decides how to tell the story. This can be critical, because the new case could fail as being seen superficial as an evasion of the patent process, which has severe penalties - basically they don't want you to waste everyone's time trying to be disingenuous.

Many large companies dance close to the line here, which is unwise. But, many smaller inventors over do this concern when they do patent searches, because they aren't knowledgeable and save money by not asking counsel who are up to date on current practice.

In this specific case, SpaceX has been after recoverable rockets longer than this patent. It is reasonable to believe they are subject matter experts, and can produce examples of prior art. No need for a defense by filing stupid patents to area deny rivals as your only recourse. They simply can claim a exploration of the means to recover a stage in this case as a next step. In the immediate.

And since they have already challenged the patent ahead of time, they have followed due process in the pursuit of a process that may be theoretically infringing. This gets them off various theoretic hooks as well.

Compare this to patenting GSO injection via lunar orbit. It is non-obvious, and was done by the holder of the granted patent. As if it was a "working model", which a long time ago was required.

Where it becomes infringement "plain and clear" is where there is no doubt of the merits and that someone has clearly benefited. In between, attorney's construct arguments about damages and attempt to "sell" them to trial judges in a entirely different environment. At the moment, the issue has more to do with failure of process of the patent office than anything else.

Offline fthomassy

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Thanks for the reply and laying out your vision of this scenario.  Still seems very grey.
gyatm . . . Fern

Offline Dudely

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To put it succinctly, there's nothing wrong with exploring and learning.

Patents protect against people making money off another person's invention, so if someone sues you for infringement and a lawyer can reasonably argue that you were just trying to learn, or even just trying to amuse yourself, then you're off the hook.

Offline AJW

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To put it succinctly, there's nothing wrong with exploring and learning.

Patents protect against people making money off another person's invention, so if someone sues you for infringement and a lawyer can reasonably argue that you were just trying to learn, or even just trying to amuse yourself, then you're off the hook.

This ties to a point I have made previously.  If you can land on a barge and chalk it up as research and avoid any patent violations then there is no reason to challenge this patent.  If you view barge landings as part of your future business plan, then the cost and effort to overturn this patent makes sense.

Another hint is Garrett Reisman's FISO call where he stated, "Yes,  so the intention is to fly the first stage back.  Elon would like us to land the thing right on the pad so all you have to do is add gas and fly it again.  But that’s going to be a while before we have that kind of accuracy.  So for all of our launch sites we are looking at potential locations nearby the launch pad where we would have enough flat terrain to be able to get her back."

The only flat terrain a few miles into the Atlantic is submerged, so not too many options there.  For the west coast, I posted my conclusion a year ago.  http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=32757.20;wap2

Offline TrevorMonty

Someone is designing a smallsat LV that is to launch out of Hawaii and land its booster on a barge. Unfortunately I can't remember name of vehicle or company. They will also have to fight this patent.

Offline CameronD

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Ok, how about this approach:  The Patent in question uses terms like "sea-going platform" and pictures of "ships" or "barges". So, what about a "jack-up platform" then?

Not being self-propelled, that's not "sea-going" or a "barge" any more than an oil rig is.. isn't it??  ???
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline IRobot

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I doubt a US patent is valid for a procedure that is done in international waters. So if the barge is outside US waters, it should be perfectly legal.


Offline IslandPlaya

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As long as SpaceX doesn't have the wrong type of rounded corners on Falcon they should be ok!
 ;)

Offline ChrisWilson68

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I see an awful lot of confident claims here about U.S. patent law without a single citation for any of them.

Unless someone comes up with some citations, I'd recommend other readers of this thread disregard everything said here about how the U.S. patent system works.

Note that I'm not talking about the discussions about the details of the actual patent in question here or prior art related to it -- just all those unsubstantiated claims about patents in general.

Offline ncb1397

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Quote
Unless someone comes up with some citations, I'd recommend other readers of this thread disregard everything said here about how the U.S. patent system works.

That is just it. The patest system doesn't work. Apple has a patent for a display with tiny cameras integrated into the screen to enable better face to face voice chat(people looking at each other vs below at the screen). Do they have a working prototype? No and aren't even close to it. The cameras would have to be so small as to be invisible. Someone that actually builds such a device has no rights to their own invention vs. a creative writing team writing sci-fi full time at Apple HQ.

Offline deruch

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I doubt a US patent is valid for a procedure that is done in international waters. So if the barge is outside US waters, it should be perfectly legal.

The US exclusive economic zone is 200 nautical miles from the low water line of the coast.  So any boosted-back recovery is going to be happening within US controlled waters.  But that's irrelevant because SpaceX is a US company launching from US soil under a license issued by the FAA.  I don't think the argument that "Well, we only violated the IP in international waters" is going to fly.     
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Offline Garrett

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I doubt a US patent is valid for a procedure that is done in international waters. So if the barge is outside US waters, it should be perfectly legal.
As is common practice, most national patents are also internationally patented. The BO patent is no exception
http://www.google.com/patents/WO2011005422A3?cl=en&hl=en
(though it still appears to be in the application phase.)
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Offline AJW

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As is common practice, most national patents are also internationally patented. The BO patent is no exception
http://www.google.com/patents/WO2011005422A3?cl=en&hl=en
(though it still appears to be in the application phase.)

This is BO's '321 patent referred to in the Petition to Review and it was issued on March 25 of 2014 by the USPTO.

https://www.google.com/patents/US8678321

Offline IRobot

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I doubt a US patent is valid for a procedure that is done in international waters. So if the barge is outside US waters, it should be perfectly legal.
As is common practice, most national patents are also internationally patented. The BO patent is no exception
http://www.google.com/patents/WO2011005422A3?cl=en&hl=en
(though it still appears to be in the application phase.)
I would agree if SpaceX was creating some "product". The patent is not about a product, it is about a procedure. And the procedure, if done in international waters, is not done in any country, therefore does not breaches the patent.
Also other countries are not so permissive on what can be patented as US.

Offline SoulWager

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I doubt a US patent is valid for a procedure that is done in international waters. So if the barge is outside US waters, it should be perfectly legal.
As is common practice, most national patents are also internationally patented. The BO patent is no exception
http://www.google.com/patents/WO2011005422A3?cl=en&hl=en
(though it still appears to be in the application phase.)
I would agree if SpaceX was creating some "product". The patent is not about a product, it is about a procedure. And the procedure, if done in international waters, is not done in any country, therefore does not breaches the patent.
Also other countries are not so permissive on what can be patented as US.
Is the construction of hardware required for that procedure regulated by patent? They aren't building control systems, rockets, or barges in international waters.

Offline Roy_H

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I is just plain silly to be able to patent the obvious. If you asked 10,000 engineers to list the ways a rocket stage could be recovered in the ocean, I bet that all of them would suggest a landing on a boat or barge as one possibility. Patents should only be issued for truly unique insights, and in most cases should be required to show months of research effort went into it before it has any value.
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Offline mgfitter

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Yes, unique ideas, like "corners" on a handheld device...

:)

-MG

Offline guckyfan

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Konrad Zuse filed a patent for his Z3. It was denied on grounds that it was not innovative enough to warrant a patent. Though corporate rivalry and influences may have played a part in the decision.




Online Kabloona

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I is just plain silly to be able to patent the obvious. If you asked 10,000 engineers to list the ways a rocket stage could be recovered in the ocean, I bet that all of them would suggest a landing on a boat or barge as one possibility.

You have a point. One of the requirements for issuing a patent is that the invention be "non-obvious." But evidently a patent examiner considered landing on a barge "non-obvious," despite the opinions of 10,000 imaginary engineers to the contrary.

Most of SpaceX's challenge is based on the claim that the patented BO scheme is based on "obvious" improvements over Ishijima's proposed scheme. We'll see whether the Patent Office agrees.

http://www.bitlaw.com/patent/requirements.html#statutory
« Last Edit: 09/12/2014 05:30 PM by Kabloona »

Offline QuantumG

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For about the thousandth time: you can't patent ideas. No-one has patented "landing on a barge". It's a real shame we can't talk about patents as knowledgeably as we talk about spaceflight on this forum.
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For about the thousandth time: you can't patent ideas. No-one has patented "landing on a barge".

I'm not sure who you're debating with. The BO patent abstract reads:

"Launch vehicle systems and methods for landing and recovering a booster stage and/or other portions thereof on a platform at sea or on another body of water are disclosed. In one embodiment, a reusable space launch vehicle is launched from a coastal launch site in a trajectory over water. After booster engine cutoff and upper stage separation, the booster stage reenters the earth's atmosphere in a tail-first orientation. The booster engines are then restarted and the booster stage performs a vertical powered landing on the deck of a pre-positioned sea-going platform."

So apparently BO has, in effect, been granted a patent for "landing on a barge."

If your point is that the patent should not have been granted, I agree. But "processes" can be patented, and apparently the patent examiner considered this to be a patentable process.

Offline anonymousgerbil

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For about the thousandth time: you can't patent ideas. No-one has patented "landing on a barge".

I'm not sure who you're debating with. The BO patent abstract reads:

"Launch vehicle systems and methods for landing and recovering a booster stage and/or other portions thereof on a platform at sea or on another body of water are disclosed. In one embodiment, a reusable space launch vehicle is launched from a coastal launch site in a trajectory over water. After booster engine cutoff and upper stage separation, the booster stage reenters the earth's atmosphere in a tail-first orientation. The booster engines are then restarted and the booster stage performs a vertical powered landing on the deck of a pre-positioned sea-going platform."

So apparently BO has, in effect, been granted a patent for "landing on a barge."

If your point is that the patent should not have been granted, I agree. But "processes" can be patented, and apparently the patent examiner considered this to be a patentable process.

It's the "Launch vehicle systems and methods" that are being patented.  Landing on a barge is what the patent enables.
« Last Edit: 09/12/2014 08:17 PM by anonymousgerbil »

Online Kabloona

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If your point is that the patent is for a "method" of landing on a barge, and I omitted the word "method" earlier, I understand and agree.


Online Herb Schaltegger

Anyone in this thread actually a lawyer in any American jurisdiction? Or more specifically, anyone actually admitted to the Bar of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office? If so, speak up.

Everyone else is hand-waving (some more educatedly than others but still ...)
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Offline ArbitraryConstant

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Recommend not playing patent lawyer here. Even if you ARE a patent lawyer :)
Totally not a patent lawyer, but I have followed the phone patent wars...

My impression from some of the outcomes there is that even a valid patent doesn't legitimize totally unilateral monetary demands or outright area denial.

The barrier for getting an outright injunction seems to be quite high, and the body that actually did issue a few injunctions, the ITC, did so in the context of imports, where SpaceX does everything domestically.

Whatever action Blue Origin took, they would be unlikely to get a preliminary injunction and would have to fight the legal battles for years to even hope to get some monetary damages.

Offline mvpel

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Scott Henderson will be finding himself in an interesting position as this unfolds, I expect. He spent a bit over three years at SpaceX as Director of Launch Integration and Mission Assurance, and then moved over to Blue Origin as the Orbital Launch Director a year and a half later, last March.
"Ugly programs are like ugly suspension bridges: they're much more liable to collapse than pretty ones, because the way humans (especially engineer-humans) perceive beauty is intimately related to our ability to process and understand complexity. A language that makes it hard to write elegant code makes it hard to write good code." - Eric S. Raymond

Offline meekGee

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Not a lawyer, but went (and am going) through the process several times.

Just to narrow the conversation, a patent has two parts.  A specification, and a set of claims.   

That bit with "embodiments" is all in the specification.

When the USPTO "gives you a patent", what it is actually doing is "allowing your claims".  You can describe a lot of things in the specification, but you only get protection on the claims.    The claims must be "from the world of the specification", but the specification absolutely contains a lot of generics.  It is a plain-language description of the entire apparatus or method, not just the bit you're seeking a patent on. It is supposed to be described from scratch, and in context.  It's the claims that are more "legal" and "mathematical".

Therefore, quoting just some leading paragraphs from the specification does not tell you what was patented.

From experience, the USPTO is very serious about the process of negotiating claims with you.  And they get pretty deep into understanding what you've invented.

Of all government agencies, they are surprisingly functional.

That said, the system does get abused, and silly patents do get allowed.  The barge landing seems to me like it should not have been allowed.  Bezos has good patent lawyers, I guess.
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Recommend not playing patent lawyer here. Even if you ARE a patent lawyer :)
Totally not a patent lawyer, but I have followed the phone patent wars...

My impression from some of the outcomes there is that even a valid patent doesn't legitimize totally unilateral monetary demands or outright area denial.

The barrier for getting an outright injunction seems to be quite high, and the body that actually did issue a few injunctions, the ITC, did so in the context of imports, where SpaceX does everything domestically.

Whatever action Blue Origin took, they would be unlikely to get a preliminary injunction and would have to fight the legal battles for years to even hope to get some monetary damages.

First of all, the ITC was never intended as the primary venue for patent litigation.  When a company is allegedly infringing a patent in the United States, the patent holder would normally file suit in civil court in some local jurisdiction.

The ITC is there to protect the interests of the United States as a whole, not of a particular company even if that company has been wronged.  It can block imports of devices if it determines that there is patent infringement that hurts U.S. industry in general.  It can also decide that even if there is infringement it is in the best interests of the United States as a whole to let the importation continue.  And, unlike a court, the decisions of the ITC can be overturned by the President.  Because the point isn't whether or not it's fair to any particular U.S. company, it's whether the U.S. as a whole is being hurt by unfair foreign behavior.

It's civil court that's supposed to be the primary recourse for patent holders.  In civil court, what matters isn't whether infringement is good or bad for the country as a whole, what matters is whether infringement hurt the patent holder.  The patent holder is entitled to monetary damages based on how much the patent holder lost because of the infringement.

It turns out that the ITC works much faster than civil courts typically do, though, and most electronics are manufactured overseas and imported into the U.S.  So tech companies realized that going to the ITC was often a more effective way of fighting patent wars than waiting for civil court cases.

Just don't take the wrong conclusions from the ITC.  The ITC deciding not to block imports of a device doesn't necessarily mean the patent holder doesn't have a good legal case.  It can just mean the ITC doesn't think it's in the over US interest to block the imports.

Offline mvpel

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Perhaps someone with more experience in the patent process can explain to everyone what exactly it is that's being "claimed," as opposed to "specified," in this patent. The patent shows 15 claims, which of them are actually the pieces where the legal rubber meets the road?
"Ugly programs are like ugly suspension bridges: they're much more liable to collapse than pretty ones, because the way humans (especially engineer-humans) perceive beauty is intimately related to our ability to process and understand complexity. A language that makes it hard to write elegant code makes it hard to write good code." - Eric S. Raymond

Offline ArbitraryConstant

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It's civil court that's supposed to be the primary recourse for patent holders.  In civil court, what matters isn't whether infringement is good or bad for the country as a whole, what matters is whether infringement hurt the patent holder.  The patent holder is entitled to monetary damages based on how much the patent holder lost because of the infringement.
Right. What we saw in phones is that it was extremely difficult to get an injunction in civil court like that, and the damages were ultimately far less than what was sought.

And in that case the parties were all actively selling phones and could argue infringement contributed to sales or lack of sales (which was a big deal in discussions of damages, the judge found that infringement being causal to lost sales hadn't been established). Blue Origin sells SFA.
« Last Edit: 09/13/2014 06:31 PM by ArbitraryConstant »

Offline fregate

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For about the thousandth time: you can't patent ideas. No-one has patented "landing on a barge".

I'm not sure who you're debating with. The BO patent abstract reads:

"Launch vehicle systems and methods for landing and recovering a booster stage and/or other portions thereof on a platform at sea or on another body of water are disclosed. In one embodiment, a reusable space launch vehicle is launched from a coastal launch site in a trajectory over water. After booster engine cutoff and upper stage separation, the booster stage reenters the earth's atmosphere in a tail-first orientation. The booster engines are then restarted and the booster stage performs a vertical powered landing on the deck of a pre-positioned sea-going platform."

So apparently BO has, in effect, been granted a patent for "landing on a barge."

If your point is that the patent should not have been granted, I agree. But "processes" can be patented, and apparently the patent examiner considered this to be a patentable process.

It's the "Launch vehicle systems and methods" that are being patented.  Landing on a barge is what the patent enables.

Nothing stops to register a patent when LV is launched from one sea platform and reusable first stage would be landed on another sea platform (i.e. Sea Launch CONOPS + Blue Origin patent in one bottle) :)
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Offline R7

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Nothing stops to register a patent when LV is launched from one sea platform and reusable first stage would be landed on another sea platform

BO patent claim 1 is vague enough to cover that. Launching from sea platform is launching from earth.

But paint the rocket's sides full of tails and noses. Then it can be argued that it does not have definite nose-first launch nor tail-first landing attitudes as claimed in the patent.
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Offline RanulfC

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Not a lawyer, but went (and am going) through the process several times.

Just to narrow the conversation, a patent has two parts.  A specification, and a set of claims.   

That bit with "embodiments" is all in the specification.

When the USPTO "gives you a patent", what it is actually doing is "allowing your claims".  You can describe a lot of things in the specification, but you only get protection on the claims.    The claims must be "from the world of the specification", but the specification absolutely contains a lot of generics.  It is a plain-language description of the entire apparatus or method, not just the bit you're seeking a patent on. It is supposed to be described from scratch, and in context.  It's the claims that are more "legal" and "mathematical".

Therefore, quoting just some leading paragraphs from the specification does not tell you what was patented.

From experience, the USPTO is very serious about the process of negotiating claims with you.  And they get pretty deep into understanding what you've invented.

Of all government agencies, they are surprisingly functional.

That said, the system does get abused, and silly patents do get allowed.  The barge landing seems to me like it should not have been allowed.  Bezos has good patent lawyers, I guess.

I really need to find the patent on the "Plasma Powered, Hovering, Anti-Missile Platform" again... Something like 20 pages of wonderful illustrations, NO claims, NO specifications, just artwork and it was a patent not an application or such... Ya, the system CAN be abused at times :)

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Offline Lourens

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For about the thousandth time: you can't patent ideas. No-one has patented "landing on a barge". It's a real shame we can't talk about patents as knowledgeably as we talk about spaceflight on this forum.

We've been through this whole mess before in the software world. (Incidentally, one of the companies owning a bunch of ridiculous patents there, including an infamous one on 1-click shopping, is, yes, Amazon.com. You may have heard of its CEO...) I'm not a patent lawyer (and even if I were I wouldn't be your patent lawyer; good legal advice is always specific to the case), but I did follow some of the issues back then, and remember reading a transcript of a speech on how to read patents. It won't make you a patent lawyer, but it will hopefully reduce the number of misunderstandings. So please everyone, go read this, it's an easy read.

A couple of notes on what's been posted before:

- The iPhone rounded corners case was about a design patent. That's a completely separate category of patents, unrelated to "functional" patents like this one. It's irrelevant.

- Abstracts are irrelevant, like meekGee says, it's the claims that define the patent. The rest of the text is important insofar as it defines terms, and to give the reader some context. But it's the claims that count.

- The claims start with some overly broad ones that will never hold up in court. Don't be distracted by them, just read on to the ones that are more specific. If each claim either claims something very specific that you're not doing, or something so broad that it doesn't hold up, or something that you can show has been published at least a year before the priority date of the patent, you win.

Edit: the cut-off for prior art is a year before the priority data, not on the priority date.
« Last Edit: 09/21/2014 09:58 PM by Lourens »

Offline Mongo62

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I really need to find the patent on the "Plasma Powered, Hovering, Anti-Missile Platform" again... Something like 20 pages of wonderful illustrations, NO claims, NO specifications, just artwork and it was a patent not an application or such... Ya, the system CAN be abused at times :)

I have a patent going through the system (had 16 of 16 claims allowed in the PCT international phase, and has entered the national phase in 7 countries plus has entered the "Europatent" process), and I must challenge this, it's not believable to me. Legally speaking, the claims ARE the patent. The specification and figures are there mainly to provide context for the claims if they are actioned in a court of law.

What you describe must be a patent application, since you can submit anything, even a couple of child's crayon drawings if you want. But to get a grant of patent, you MUST have at least one patent claim, and you had better have a decent specification too.
« Last Edit: 09/21/2014 10:32 PM by Mongo62 »

Offline Lourens

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Exactly. Here's an example (WARNING: patent link, if you can't look at patents, don't click!) of how to do it right.

I've now read the claims of the BO patent, and skimmed through the text, and I'm very disappointed. The point of the patent system is to induce people to share their newly found insights for the ultimate benefit of all, in exchange for a temporary monopoly. This patent doesn't contain any insights. It's just a really broad overview of how you would launch a multi-stage rocket from land and land it on an ocean platform, if you did everything in the obvious way. No one actually trying to do this can learn anything from this patent, which is unsurprising, since the "inventors" didn't actually do anything like it themselves. If the USPTO were half as good as the NSF moderators, it would have been sent back with a note that it's "low quality", that it's "not rocket science" that this is not a good patent, and that they "should know better", signed Chris Bergin. But alas.

You know what? I bet we could find a mention of every single technique or idea mentioned in the claims of that patent on this forum, posted before the patent was published on March 25, 2014. Maybe even before June 15, 2008, although it probably wouldn't count as prior art. Anyone up for a challenge?

Offline Mader Levap

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The claims start with some overly broad ones that will never hold up in court.
And this is normal practice in patenting? Yet another sign that patent system is broken.
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Offline Chris Bergin

This has very little to do with the content we cover here. Locked.

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