Author Topic: Inter Partes Review of Blue Origin Sea Landing Patent - Petition & Exhibits  (Read 25945 times)

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)
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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?

Online 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

Online 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 thatís 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.

Online ncb1397

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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.     
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

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.)
- "Nothing shocks me. I'm a scientist." - Indiana Jones

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.

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