Author Topic: Patent abuse  (Read 442 times)

cherrypoptart

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Patent abuse
« on: September 03, 2020, 04:09:42 PM »
https://www.yahoo.com/news/nasa-patented-faster-cheaper-route-122800550.html

"NASA patented a faster, cheaper route to the moon...

It may seem odd to patent lunar travel, but Burns said it is really no different from any other invention. "It's a creation that was the result of doing numerical modeling of planetary trajectories, he said. "So it is intellectual property."

NASA patents and licenses inventions to achieve the "widest distribution" of a technology, Dan Lockney, a NASA executive, told IPWatchdog in 2018."

So I thought for a moment maybe they are patenting this so nobody else can try to do it and this way they can keep it in the public domain for anyone to use, but that's not it. They are charging for it.

"The agency charges as much as $50,000 to license its patents but typically asks for $5,000 to $10,000, plus royalties. "It is through the upfront fees that NASA seeks to recover some of its investment in the patent filing and maintenance costs," the agency's licensing website says."

Don't get me wrong here. I think it's great work that they are doing. That's a fantastic trajectory and I can appreciate all the time and effort and money and brain power put into it. Nobel Prize consideration is certainly due. I'm just not seeing how it's something that should be patentable, like if you found a way to get across the ocean in a hot air balloon using the most efficient wind currents and different altitudes and locations during your journey, or tried to patent an efficient route across the ocean on your sailboat, or a time saving way to drive through a city or state or country. I'm not seeing in the story that this is a patent they applied for and it's under consideration and might still be rejected. Apparently, it got approved.

Is that how this should work? Any other examples of patent abuse, either upheld or denied, whether or not you agree with this one?

TheDeamon

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2020, 10:55:00 PM »
For perspective, consider the typical launch costs of a gram of payload into LEO(and "payload" in this would include the fuel to move beyond LEO) can still run in the $2,000 to $3,000 range, and even that $50,000 fee can suddenly pay for itself. That's 25 grams worth of payload they can now use for something else.

cherrypoptart

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2020, 12:26:01 AM »
No doubt. I wonder though what would happen if somebody, say the Chinese, launched using this principle or maybe even the exact trajectory, so would NASA have a valid claim against them for patent infringement? Would lawyers for China be able to argue that a patent that restricts their route into space without payment is not legal? Sure it's well worth it to take that course as opposed to a straight shot but if someone else can just copy the same course using the same slingshot effect why would they have to pay NASA anything? Even Joe Bob out in his backyard launching a rocket, as a hypothetical. Or someone in their own private spaceship wanting to do a little solar system sightseeing. I expect the patent protection will run out by then but it just doesn't seem like you should be able to patent a route from point A to point B, aka a trajectory.

Looking into the patent criteria, to me this seems to fail on the grounds of subject matter eligibility.

It gets complicated and the courts are still figuring things out but this seems awfully close to also being ineligible on the "abstract idea" basis.

https://www.ipwatchdog.com/2019/01/04/patent-eligibility-guidance-abstract-idea/id=104754/

"... but the Federal Circuit has ruled that no matter how innovative, no matter how much of an advance a technique for analyzing, displaying and disseminating financial information using resampled statistical methods may be, such claims are simply ineligible for patenting."

It's a fine line in all this though so I'm not at all sure about it or my opinion. There was this that was a bit confusing but I could see how maybe the trajectory might be patent eligible.

"For example, when evaluating a claim reciting an abstract idea such as a mathematical equation and a series of data gathering steps that collect a necessary input for the equation, an examiner might consider the data gathering steps to be insignificant extra-solution activity in revised Step 2A, and therefore find that the judicial exception is not integrated into a practical application. However, when the examiner reconsiders the data gathering steps in Step 2B, the examiner could determine that the combination of steps gather data in an unconventional way and therefore include an “inventive concept,” rendering the claim eligible at Step 2B."

I wonder if there is any precedent for a similar type of patent on a trajectory calculation or a route from A to B.

cherrypoptart

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2020, 01:58:48 PM »
One concern about this is that what if it wasn't NASA that got this patent. What if it had been China? And then instead of charging a modest fee to use it they charged hundreds of millions of dollars?

DonaldD

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2020, 02:16:19 PM »
One concern about this is that what if it wasn't NASA that got this patent. What if it had been China? And then instead of charging a modest fee to use it they charged hundreds of millions of dollars?
Hmmm.... a patent gives the holder exclusive rights to the patented "thing".  Meaning they can in theory NOT make it available to anybody else if they so desire, and litigate any infringement on their rights.

Then it's up to a court to decide on the damages.

If a patent holder tried to charge licensing fees for the patent well in excess of what they could conceivably win in court, nobody would pay...

wmLambert

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2020, 02:29:51 PM »
...Any other examples of patent abuse, either upheld or denied, whether or not you agree with this one?

I remember on the Bob Newhart show, when the title character wrote a DIY book about how to repair faucets, and was sued by a plumber who wrote a far less cerebral book with a bare-bones approach to the same thing. The two versions were night and day, and was a real laugh. Bob wrote something like: "Place your wrench gently on the flange of the nut so as not to scratch the finish and turn with gentle pressure in a counter-clockwise direction until it is loose." The plumber wrote: "Unscrew the nut to the left."

Fenring

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2020, 12:51:44 AM »
Who the hell 'owns' NASA anyhow? Isn't it publicly funded? If so, how can a government establishment patent processes and then charge private persons for it? At that point, why not allow the government to patent everything?

wmLambert

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2020, 09:07:44 PM »
Who the hell 'owns' NASA anyhow? Isn't it publicly funded? If so, how can a government establishment patent processes and then charge private persons for it? At that point, why not allow the government to patent everything?

No big deal. If one is hired by a company and tasked with performing research to solve a company issue, that work product is owned by the company. Same thing with NASA.

Do you think the Rosenbergs followed the patent laws when they delivered our nuclear research to the Russians?

Fenring

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2020, 01:07:32 AM »
No big deal. If one is hired by a company and tasked with performing research to solve a company issue, that work product is owned by the company. Same thing with NASA.

Did you misunderstand the question? It wasn't "how does a corporation own a patent." It was "should companies that are unofficial branches of government be allowed to own patents."

DonaldD

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2020, 06:33:38 AM »
The USA federal government has title to more USA patents than does any other single entity.

Quote
It is estimated that the government has title to over 30,000 patents and annually files several thousand new applications./quote]

wmLambert

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2020, 11:47:56 AM »
..."should companies that are unofficial branches of government be allowed to own patents."

Why not? It is the overarching business that enabled the research that resulted in a patented product. If the worker did it at home without input from the company then they can certainly patent their own work. Supposedly, the public who own the company benefit from such patents. They are the company - not outside of it. IOW, the patents reside with the people.

Fenring

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2020, 02:26:05 PM »
The USA federal government has title to more USA patents than does any other single entity.

Quote
It is estimated that the government has title to over 30,000 patents and annually files several thousand new applications.

Wow, didn't know that. Not sure how to feel about it, either.

wmLambert

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Re: Patent abuse
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2020, 03:05:59 PM »
The USA federal government has title to more USA patents than does any other single entity.

Quote
It is estimated that the government has title to over 30,000 patents and annually files several thousand new applications.

Wow, didn't know that. Not sure how to feel about it, either.

I worry more about patents and connected Congressional fascist bills, like the stupid AGW bills that outlawed freon, just as the patents for A/C were running out. The generic idea of a constricting tube producing cooling would have been super cheap, but once freon was banned, the new process was patentable, and the third-world countries in sub-Saharan Africa still couldn't afford refrigeration for their food storage.