Patenting Physics

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Akula
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Patenting Physics

Postby Akula » Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:09 pm UTC

Wonder if anyone has heard this recent story of Boeing claiming a patent on using a lunar fly-by as a method of inserting a satellite into it's proper orbit.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/200804 ... 8824.shtml

Basically, what happened is that SES had a problem with a satellite launch, such that the satellite did not reach the proper orbit (it was intended to be a geostationary satellite used by Echostar). SES then figured out that it could get the satellite into a proper orbit by making use of a lunar flyby. That part is just basic physics. But, at that point, SES discovered that Boeing happens to own a patent on doing this sort of lunar flyby, despite the fact that you can't patent physics. As someone notes in the article, Boeing merely used some jargon to make basic physics appear as a "process." If that sounds familiar, you'll note that it's the same thing that many patent holders are doing to turn math into patents using software patents.


I mean... REALLY? I'm not extremely well versed in patent law by any means, but I have to imagine that Boeing wouldn't have a prayer if it this were actually taken to court.

Just interested in any thoughts, or knowledgeable opinions on this.
Last edited by Akula on Sun Apr 20, 2008 12:27 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby Indon » Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:44 pm UTC

The trick is this: Judges aren't physicists. They study law, not physics.

So all Boeing has to do is convince the judge - not with facts, 'cause the judge isn't a physicist, and without going back to school for another half-decade probably can't really understand the facts to make a proper judgement.

So instead, all Boeing has to do is sound more convincing, and they can hire really awesome lawyers to do that because they've money to burn.

Now, this isn't a problem for NASA - the feds are a pretty big force too. But it's a problem for anyone who isn't a handful of large corporations following such practices.
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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby Vaniver » Thu Apr 17, 2008 5:55 pm UTC

Judges, in cases like this, tend to listen to expert testimony, and it's likely that in a challenge the judge would be told "yeah, this isn't something you can patent" and the patent will be revoked. Expensive lawyers give advantages but they don't settle cases.
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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby Garm » Thu Apr 17, 2008 6:00 pm UTC

I'll have to keep an eye on this. If it works I'ma go patent ethics.
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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby Akula » Thu Apr 17, 2008 8:12 pm UTC

The thing that really strikes me is... if you can patent physics like this, why not other things dealing with physics?

You could ostensibly patent the curveball, and sue every major league pitcher into giving you a cut of their salary.
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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby Indon » Thu Apr 17, 2008 11:03 pm UTC

Akula wrote:The thing that really strikes me is... if you can patent physics like this, why not other things dealing with physics?

You could ostensibly patent the curveball, and sue every major league pitcher into giving you a cut of their salary.


Had you gotten into it early enough, you could have legally patented the curveball - the grip on the ball and method of throwing is indeed a process.

Unfortunately, in this day and age the Curveball does not represent the state of the art required for a patent.

Vaniver wrote:Judges, in cases like this, tend to listen to expert testimony, and it's likely that in a challenge the judge would be told "yeah, this isn't something you can patent" and the patent will be revoked. Expensive lawyers give advantages but they don't settle cases.


Indeed, against another group with decent resources to rally support to their case (like NASA), the strategy is null.

It's only against groups without complete understanding of how the law works (like, for instance, scientists) who might have difficulty properly forming their case, or groups with poor legal support (like, for instance, people who can't pay for lawyers who specialize in this sort of thing) that are vulnerable to the strategy.
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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby Mr. Beck » Fri Apr 18, 2008 3:33 am UTC

One more way that corporations are trying to screw the world through self-interest.

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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby SabreKGB » Fri Apr 18, 2008 5:49 am UTC

Mr. Beck wrote:One more way that corporations are trying to screw the world through self-interest.


:roll:

Anti-corporate raving makes the baby jesus cry.

Corporations don't try to screw the world. The only goal of corporations is to make money for their stockholders. People getting screwed is just an occasional side-effect.

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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby Arancaytar » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:22 am UTC

Garm wrote:If it works I'ma go patent ethics.


The way some of those lawyers operate, I'm fairly sure someone has already done that.
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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby Aramis » Fri Apr 18, 2008 9:34 am UTC

:( This sort of thing saddens me.

But if it did go to court, I see no way in which Boeing would have a leg to stand on. They basically broke the law. And judges do listen to expert testimony, or at least I would hope so, and I can't see SES having a problem finding an expert on the matter.

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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby Solt » Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:57 am UTC

It simply is not worth the company's time and effort to attempt this. They're already going to get the full payout from their insurance company, recovering all costs. It's highly unlikely that they could sell the satellite for more than it cost them to build it and launch it, and unlikely that they could even get back what they spent seeing as how the orbit is off and additional investment will be needed to make it viable.

In short, the company probably also realizes that Boeing has no case, but even a few thousand dollars spent to destroy the patent in court is wasted money for them because they will only be increasing total mission costs beyond what has already been lost (exactly $0, thanks to the insurance).
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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby Mr. Beck » Fri Apr 18, 2008 8:24 pm UTC

SabreKGB wrote:
Mr. Beck wrote:One more way that corporations are trying to screw the world through self-interest.


:roll:

Anti-corporate raving makes the baby jesus cry.

Corporations don't try to screw the world. The only goal of corporations is to make money for their stockholders. People getting screwed is just an occasional side-effect.

Allow me to rephrase. I agree that corporations are not inherently evil, and that there primary goal is to make money. However, the "side-effect" is an all to common occurrence that I strongly feel is detriment to human happiness and progress.

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Re: Patenting Physics

Postby TheStranger » Sat Apr 19, 2008 5:49 pm UTC

I really didn't want to do this... but I cannot take it anymore...

Please, would someone PLEASE correct the spelling of this threads title!!

Edit:
ah, it's like a soothing balm on my brain...
Last edited by TheStranger on Sun Apr 20, 2008 1:18 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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4=5
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Re: Petenting Physics

Postby 4=5 » Sat Apr 19, 2008 10:24 pm UTC

whet are you telking about?

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Re: Patenting Physics

Postby Akula » Sun Apr 20, 2008 12:28 am UTC

TheStranger wrote:I really didn't want to do this... but I cannot take it anymore...

Please, would someone PLEASE correct the spelling of this threads title!!


Holy crap, I didn't even notice...

fix'd
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Re: Patenting Physics

Postby goblin_subway » Sun Apr 20, 2008 1:46 am UTC

It strikes me as similar to the pharm companies pantenting certain genomes. Completely absurd.
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Re: Patenting Physics

Postby TheStranger » Sun Apr 20, 2008 3:15 am UTC

goblin_subway wrote:It strikes me as similar to the pharm companies pantenting certain genomes. Completely absurd.


unless they engineer / develop the genome themselves.
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Re: Patenting Physics

Postby goblin_subway » Sun Apr 20, 2008 3:28 am UTC

The problem in patenting genomes is that they do not need to develop them in order to patent them. Let's say that your family is imune to cancer and a pharm company discovers this. They then patent the genome and, in an odd way, own your genome. They made the discovery, so they they own all rights to anything resulting in the development of your genome. Go team.
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Re: Patenting Physics

Postby psyck0 » Sun Apr 20, 2008 3:54 am UTC

Eugh. Patent law badly needs updating. There are just so many awful holes. Judges are doing their best to follow the laws, but the laws are terrible.

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Re: Patenting Physics

Postby 4=5 » Sun Apr 20, 2008 5:23 am UTC

you're right, the best solution in my mind is to return the length back to what it was 100 years ago


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