Author Topic: Inter Partes Review of Blue Origin Sea Landing Patent - Petition & Exhibits  (Read 26050 times)

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.




Offline 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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Offline Kabloona

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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.

Online 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 »

Offline 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.
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Online 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 »

Online 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 »

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