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From: (Henry Spencer)
Subject: Re: TimeLife Album - To the moon - getting off topic
Date: Fri, 25 Jun 1999 00:21:36 GMT

In article <>,
RX7drivr <> wrote:
>>A better comparison might be to patent law.  Suppose one has a patent on
>>a certain invention, but refuses to either exercise it oneself or
>>licence it to others.  How will a judge react when one complains that
>>another entity is infringing on one's patent?
>Interestingly, you are not infringing on a patent if you make one copy of a
>patented doodad for your own personal use.

Nope, that's a common misconception, based on confusing patents with
copyrights.  There is *no* "fair use" exemption for patents.  Even one
copy for your own personal use is an infringement that the patent holder
can sue you for.  (They rarely do, but it *is* possible.)

There are some exemptions from patent licensing, but they are very narrow
and specialized, and the courts interpret them very restrictively.  For
all practical purposes, a patent holder has absolute and total control of
his invention until his patent expires.

(The situation proposed by the earlier poster *is* a patent infringement.
Patents don't have a "use it or lose it" clause either.  *However*, the
courts do consider such issues when deciding the amount of damages owing
for an infringement -- a patent holder who is making no use of his patent
cannot plausibly claim financial harm from the infringement, which weighs
heavily in such decisions.)
The good old days                   |  Henry Spencer
weren't.                            |      (aka

From: "Jeff Greason" <>
Subject: Re: X-1/XLR-11 Replica Project! (WAS:"Kistler's...)
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1999 16:49:54 -0700

Scott Lowther <> wrote in message
> Phil Fraering wrote:
> >
> > What about licensing the tow-launch trick from Kelly, if it's
> > patented, and putting that provision in the vehicle?
> Can Kelly really patent that? It's been demonstrated long before Kelly
> came along... the Germans tow-launched an Me 163 back in the early
> 1940's at least once, and it's propably been done elsewhere.

Kelly *has* patented that, US5626310 _Space launch vehicles
configured as gliders and towed to launch altitude by conventional

Right now, in every field I've worked in, I'm *amazed* at what the
U.S. patent office will let you get away with.  The patent examiners simply
don't seem to know the engineering art in the fields they're working in,
so that they don't know what represents an advance known "to one skilled
in the art" and what doesn't.

As a result, it is possible to patent almost anything with a little
creativity.  I've always tried to "self police" and only file patents
which were a noticable improvement based on my knowledge of the art --
but I don't know how common that is.

Now, such patents with ample prior art history might or might not stand
up in court -- it depends on the judgement of a judge who himself doesn't
know the art (or possibly a jury, depending on the forum).

The result is that many patents are issuing that have low value, so
patenting has simply become a "right to sue" or a cost of doing business.
With a few rare exceptions, when big companies come in conflict over
patents, the attorneys weigh the stacks of patents on both sides and
decide who pays who a license fee.

The net result is a system which rewards being big and penalizes
being small.  Innovation is no longer fostered, since the mere act of
having a patent has been so devalued.

There's no low-cost way of challenging a patent.  I can think of a lot
of patents I've seen where I'm *sure* the patent was known in the
prior art -- but it's usually much cheaper to license the patent than to
challenge it's validity.

(BTW, lest I seem to be attacking from the outside, I currently hold
 14 patents).


However, I'm sure that even if the Kelly patent were interpreted to cover
rocket aircraft, we could negotiate a license for reasonable terms, since
we would not be infringing on Kelly's core business and Kelly is a
reasonable company to deal with.

The X-1 isn't a particularly "nice" airplane to tow, since wing loading on
takeoff is high.  I'm sure it could be done.  We could also drop it from
a carrier aircraft.  Whether the NeX-1 will be fitted for these depends on
exactly what the customer wants.

"Limited funds are a blessing, not         Jeff Greason
a curse.  Nothing encourages creative      President & Eng. Mgr.
thinking in quite the same way." --L. Yau  XCOR Aerospace
   <>                <>

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