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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 Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @03:18PM (#47809863)
  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @03:33PM (#47809995)

    It costs about 3 million dollars to take a patent case to court. No small business with a patent that's being violated can sue the big boys over patents because they can't afford the legal expenses. My uncle ran a business that sold a patented item to the mining business. Because the business was small they contracted with a larger company to produce the product using the small business input materials. The bigger business would routinely produce the patented item using the small business materials and was selling them in direct competition to the small business.

    No matter how loud or how threatening my Uncle could be would intimidate the larger business because the lawsuit would bankrupt the smaller business and they'd just buy them out cheaper than their value (they told him as much when he was trying to stop them). There was literally nothing he could do because the value of the goods though a lot of money to the small business wasn't anywhere near the cost of the suit. The larger business made a point of producing just a small enough number of items for themselves that it would never be enough money to draw a lawyer in on contingency. Because they were pretty much the only company in the US that could produce the items he was screwed either way.

    Like much of the legal system in this country it's become too expensive and too complicated for small businesses to go after larger ones. This applies especially to patents. Patents are not being used by small inventors.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday September 02, 2014 @04:16PM (#47810393)
    The USPTO really needs to insist that patents be for an implementation of an idea, not the general concept. That was the problem with the Wright Brothers' patent - it basically covered the concept of moving surfaces as flight controls, even though the Wright Brothers' implementation via wing warping was something nobody else did nor does today. It hindered U.S. development of aircraft enough that by the time WWI came about, the U.S. was technologically behind the rest of the world [century-of-flight.net] partly because of the patent.

    Likewise, if Bezos wants to patent an implementation of landing a rocket at sea, by all means he should be free to do so. But he should not be able to patent the concept of landing a rocket at sea.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen