Thursday, January 27, 2011

An open message for Blue Origin.

Blue Origin is Mr Bezos's company and he can run it any way he wants. If he is running it to create a profitable business with maximum advantage for B.O. then the rest of my message has no applicability.

If on the other hand if Mr Bezos has a passion for space and making the human race spacefaring then B.O.'s actions are destructive. Most of the "new space" companies are somewhat open from Space X down to the smallest garage operation. Other companies participate in conferences, they publish their success, the publish their failures, and all involved learn. B.O does none of this. They have access to everyone's information and yet share none.

In addition B.O has started filing patents that restrict the trade space. Today's news of the barge landing patent is a perfect example. Other new space people have publicly talked about barge landing of various vehicles to recover stages. I remember John Carmack talking about barge landing more than 4 years ago. Others have commented to me personally that they have written notes talking about barge landing from more than 5 years ago.

There is a huge on-line discussion base about lower cost space flight and it clearly covers this and other B.O patents. If the patent is challenged the patent will be clearly invalid, but if it is issued it will cost millions to have it declared invalid. This is a huge expense to any small organization that might want to use that technology.

So if Mr Bezos's intent is to help get the human race off of the planet, please don't be evil, try being more open.

I am not anti patent, but the patent needs to actually be innovative.
Vacuuming up common sense, not adding anything new, and attempting to patent that, is destructive. This is just a make work patent for patent attorneys. No real new ideas, and if you want to use one of the concepts covered in the claims one will now have to go back and find reference to the prior art, document it, and budget funds to have a lawyer defend your position.
I won't go line by line to refute the claims, that has already been done in several forums by myself and others.

If the patent actually had some new art, say:
  • A unique way to adjust trajectory to compensate for performance changes and still land on the barge.
  • A cool stabilization and retention system that would capture the rocket on a rolling barge and stabilize it.
  • An innovative method to incorporate a flame trench or blast diffusion system on a barge.
  • Anything that someone "Skilled" in the art would not find obvious to the extreme.
Then you would not hear a peep from me about it.


QuantumG said...

While I certainly think the idea is what everyone has discussed, that's not what patents are about. Patents are not about "what", they're about "how". If there's some public place where John Carmack, or whoever else, described the same how that Bezos is attempting to patent then that's prior art. If no-one has described the same how then it's novel.

I think patents do more to harm industry than help it, but obviously Bezos disagrees and I imagine his investors do too. :(

Gaetano Marano said...


Mr. Bezos seems an assiduous reader of my space blogs ... :-)


Gaetano Marano said...


and it not even is the first time ... as explained in this TechFlash comment:


QuantumG said...

Paul, hopefully Gaetano's comments are demonstrating to you how silly most people's responses to patents typically are.

I'm reminded of Grandpa Simpson: "Why the fax machine is nothing but a waffle iron with a phone attached."

Anonymous said...

What is a barge landing?

heroineworshipper said...

Theoretically it is Paypal's patent portfolio which is mostly funding SpaceX. Somewhere there needs to be an evil competitive edge.

montejo said...

Maybe the patent won't get approved..? If the barge idea really is common sense, then there should be no trouble striking it down in court. Have you no faith in the American legal system... (uneasy pause)

If it is a novel "how", then why shouldn't Bezos get it?

Anonymous said...

The patent system is in a sorry shape. look up these:
1) 5443036 2) 6368227 3) 6360693

teasing a cat with a laser; swinging a swing sideways, throwing a stick for a dog to retrieve.

Not what was contemplated by the Founding Fathers.

There are also Patent Aggregators, or "patent trolls" which collect patents only for litigation opportunities

I've gotten 4 legitimate ones over my lifetime--wonder if there will ever be a 5th...

Joe Stanton said...

So whats the point of buying up vast tracts of Texas? Ah well, I suppose you have contingency plans when you are in this business and can bankroll it adequately.

Thom Vincent said...

{I have tried posting this comment four times now over the past week. Each one appeared to be accepted by the system, but then never showed up. This time I will try posting it as 2 or 3 smaller comments, since smaller comments seem to be going through.}



Thanks for your post on Blue Origin's "barge landing" patent application. I agree that this is not novel. I have only been focused on space matters since late November 2010 (when N-Prize was mentioned in Popular Science). However, even in that short time frame - with no knowledge of any other discussion, or mention of water-based launch or landing (other than Apollo-era 'splash downs') - I had been considering water-based launch and landing possibilities since December.

The reason is I live in New England and there simply is not enough open area here to do vertical space launches/landings on solid ground. I have spent many hours searching Google Maps for open space along the New England coast - for possible launch/landing sites, and there simply aren't any. You have to get almost up to Canada before you can find enough coastline for a launch/landing site in New England that is not already taken up by houses, ports, and/or nature preserves. The result? Unless someone chops down a lot of trees, the only place vertical space launches/landings would likely ever occur in New England is on the water. That is a logical conclusion for any region with no available coastline for a launch/landing site.

(continued -->)

Thom Vincent said...

(--> continued)

Since I have not seen the online discussions on this (yet), here is the rest of my two-cents on this topic, before my thinking gets influenced by what everyone else has been saying ...

Vertical powered landings were not novel after Apollo 11 did it in 1969 (and maybe before that). Small, private companies doing vertical powered landings were not novel after Armadillo and Masten (and Unreasonable Rocket?) did it in 2008 and 2009.

How a launch/landing platform is structurally supported - whether by soil, or water, or air (a la "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow") - is irrelevant to the launch/landing craft. What matters is whether or not the launch/landing area is moving.

And, a moving landing pad only affects the navigation/orientation/guidance systems of the craft - which is orthogonal to the propulsion system. The nav/guidance systems control the position of the craft, but they don't care if that positioning is the result of compressed gas/fluid, propellers, jet engines, rocket engines, or someone flapping their arms. And, nav/guidance systems that can land/connect a moving craft on/to a moving landing area, have been in use for decades (VTOL, STOL, and UAVs on aircraft carriers; VTOL on ships, barges, and drilling platforms; AUVs with ships; DSVs with submarines).

Attaching a (previously in use) mobile-craft-on-a-mobile-platform nav/guidance system, to a (previously in use) rocket-type propulsion system, for use on a (previously in use) water-based launch/landing platform -- does not constitute a new (or novel) idea.

I, also, am not anti patent. But I am anti *obvious* patent. And, when someone like me - with absolutely no training in aerospace or engineering whatsoever - can come up with an idea within the first month or so of educating myself, part-time, about aerospace matters (and without knowledge of what Blue Origin was doing), that idea definitely qualifies as 'obvious'. It does not even require someone "skilled in the art" to think this up.

/my two-cents

Finally, Paul, you mention there is a "huge on-line discussion" that covers this. Since I am new to this topic and community, I am unfamiliar with the location of these online discussions. Could you (or someone else) post a link to the most useful discussions on this topic?


Thom Vincent said...

{ P.S. - The issue with comments disappearing seems to be caused by comments that are too long. The system says it can accept comments (or HTML) up to 4096 characters in length. However, I tried submitting a comment with under 4000 chars that was rejected as too long. When I shaved off some chars, it was accepted - but never showed up. By submitting the comment in pieces of less than 2500 chars each, the system accepted them. /FWIW ~T }

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