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Patents Space Technology

SpaceX Challenges Blue Origin Patents Over Sea-Landing Rocket Tech 75

speedplane writes: Last week, Elon Musk's SpaceX fired two challenges (PDFs) at Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin over U.S. Patent 8,678,321, entitled "Sea landing of space launch vehicles and associated systems and methods." The patent appears to cover a method of landing a rocket on a floating platform at sea. In their papers, SpaceX says that "by 2009, the earliest possibly priority date listed on the face of the patent, the basic concepts of 'rocket science' were well known and widely understood. The "rocket science" claimed in the '321 patent was, at best, 'old hat[.]'" Blue Origin has approximately three months to file a preliminary response to the challenge. You can review the litigation documents here and here. (Disclosure: I run the website hosting several of the above documents.)
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SpaceX Challenges Blue Origin Patents Over Sea-Landing Rocket Tech

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  • by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @03:00PM (#47809681) Homepage
  • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @03:03PM (#47809713)
    Probably not, but the typical counter argument is that if there's no protections at all the little guys can be immediately squashed by the existing industry titans who can use their existing infrastructure advantages to crush any new-comers who lack any legal protection for their inventions.

    Of course the counter-counter argument is that the patent laws are so bad that this is happening anyway because trolls can threaten anyone with millions of dollars in legal expenses over a patent that's not terribly good (or possibly even relevant to the case at all) which ends up crushing the new-comers anyways.

    There's probably a happy middle-ground, but most people are too firmly in one camp or another to ever try to compromise and the government in general cares so little about the issue that they won't bother to develop a fix, and even if there's a perfectly good system that someone conceives and then proves (by some rigorous method) to be an ideal solution, there will still be someone who complains because the current system suits them better and they can probably buy a Congress critter or three, so good luck there.

    However, the unwritten rule seems to be that the litigation will drag on for so long, that you may as well just knowingly infringe, even if it's a perfectly good and reasonable patent, simply because the opportunity to gain industry position and reach the point where you can throw your own weight around is worth far more than the actual costs your company will actually incur once the legal dust settles. For example, Apple and Samsung are still fighting over phones that have in some cases been off the market for years at this point and it could be several years before each side has exhausted all of their appeals, countersuits, motions to complain (or whatever the actual legal term might be), etc.
  • Patents are still useful for small businesses because it provides protection against someone else coming along and patenting your product after the fact.

    Not really. They grant patents which conflict with existing patents all the time, and you still need to be able to take a suit to court to prove that the subsequent patent should not have been granted, which means you still need millions of dollars in your legal fund.

  • by Rick in China ( 2934527 ) on Wednesday September 03, 2014 @02:18AM (#47814411)

    If human expansion into space is thwarted by broad patents, I have nothing more than a big fuck you on behalf of humanity for those who sit on given patents.

    Why oh why isn't the patent system getting a massive overhaul: the world has changed ffs.

User hostile.