Satellite Abandoned Due To Orbital Patent

Slashdot | Satellite Abandoned Due To Orbital Patent

This is just so head-slappingly stupid on so many levels, I can’t even begin to  describe the myriad ways.

According to the snippet, there is currently a satellite that experienced a launch failure. It’s currently up in the air, and needs a boost of some form to get into proper orbit. From the snippet:

 The satellite’s owner, SES Americom, looked for a way to salvage the satellite, but ran into an unexpected hurdle; a Boeing patent on the lunar flyby process that would be used to correct the satellite’s orbit.

So, because Boeing has been putting crap up into space and had the legal team to make it a patentable process, SES Americom is now out a satellite. Let me re-iterate: the only reason this satellite could turn into space-junk is because Boeing owns a piece of paper in the United States Patent Office that lays claim to the method for saving this satellite.

(And yes, I had to re-read the title of the story twice, since my first read of the title said  “planet”, not “patent”).

I can’t think of a more clear example on why method patents are completely wrong, and should be abolished.


  1. Stephen says:

    Arthur Clarke’s patent application for geosynchronus orbit satellites in the 1940’s was rejected. Very similar to the Big Spring’s patent. Has the law changed?

    Clarke’s patent would have expired before anyone could have used it, due to historical accident.

    Clarke never put anything into orbit. But the Big Spring actually used this technique to salvage a system.

    Prior art – the Moon has been around for 4.5 billion years.

  2. craig says:

    Well, that’s the game, isn’t it? The reason some of these tings weren’t patented were because they were method patents, which until recently weren’t allowed. Now we’re dealing with the repercussions of frivolous patent suits for obvious or vague technology. It’s crazy, and needs to be abolished.

  3. J says:

    okay..dumb…Can I claim the patent on the orbital elements of the planet Mercury around the Sun or does Einstein already have those??

  4. Stephen says:

    Predates Einstein. Try Newton. Patent expired in either case.

  5. J says:

    No comment