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Case Title

Inter Partes Review of U.S. Pat. 8,678,321

Docket Number

IPR2014-01378

Court

Patent Trial and Appeal Board

Document Title

Petition 2: Inter Partes Review of US Patent No 8,678,321, Claims 14 15

Date Filed

08/25/2014
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UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE

BEFORE THE PATENT TRIAL AND APPEAL BOARD





Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
Petitioner

v.

Blue Origin LLC
Patent Owner

U.S. Patent No. 8,678,321
Filing Date: June 14, 2010
Issue Date: March 25, 2014

Title: SEA LANDING OF SPACE LAUNCH VEHICLES
AND ASSOCIATED SYSTEMS AND METHODS



Inter Partes Review No. ______













Table of Contents


I. 

MANDATORY NOTICES UNDER 37 C.F.R. § 42.8(A)(1) ........................................ 1 
A. 
Real Party-ln-lnterest under 37 C.F.R. § 42.8(b)(1) .............................................. 1 
B. 
Related Matters under 37 C.F.R. § 42.8(b)(2) ....................................................... 1 
C. 
Lead and Back-Up Counsel under 37 C.F.R. § 42.8(b)(3) .................................... 1 
D. 
Service Information ............................................................................................... 2 
E. 
Power of Attorney .................................................................................................. 2 
PAYMENT OF FEES - 37 C.F.R. § 42.103 ................................................................... 2 
II. 
III.  REQUIREMENTS FOR INTER PARTES REVIEW UNDER 37 C.F.R. §
42.104................................................................................................................................. 2 
A. 
Grounds for Standing under 37 C.F.R. § 42.104(a) ............................................... 2 
B. 
Identification of Challenge under 37 C.F.R. § 42.104(b) and Statement of
Precise Relief Requested ........................................................................................ 3 
Threshold for Inter Partes Review 37 C.F.R. § 42.108(c) .................................... 4 
C. 
TECHNOLOGY BACKGROUND RELEVANT TO THE ‘321 PATENT ............... 4 
A. 
“Rocket Science” ................................................................................................... 5 
B. 
Launch Vehicles ..................................................................................................... 5 
C. 
Multistage Rockets ................................................................................................. 6 
D. 
Reusable Spacecraft and “Reusable Launch Vehicles” (RLVs) ............................ 7 
E. 
Sea Landing of Reusable Launch Vehicles ........................................................... 9 
SUMMARY OF THE CLAIMED SUBJECT MATTER .......................................... 10 
A. 
The Specification of the ‘321 Patent .................................................................... 10 
B. 
Summary of the Relevant Prosecution History .................................................... 13 
C. 
The Claims of the ‘321 Patent ............................................................................. 14 
VI.  CLAIM CONSTRUCTION UNDER 37 C.F.R. § 42.104(B)(3) ................................. 15 
A. 
“Space Launch Vehicle” ...................................................................................... 16 
B. 
“Nose-First Orientation” and “Tail-First Orientation” ........................................ 17 
C. 
Means-Plus-Function Limitations from Claims 14 and 15 .................................. 18 
1. 
“Means for Launching” ............................................................................ 18 
2. 
“Means for Igniting” ................................................................................ 19 
3. 
“Means for Shutting Off”......................................................................... 19 

IV. 

V. 





-i-





Table of Contents



4. 
5. 
6. 

“Means for Reorienting” .......................................................................... 20 
“Means for Reigniting” ............................................................................ 20 
“Means for Landing,” “Means for Landing in a Tail-First
Orientation,” and “Means for Landing Vertically”.................................. 21 
VII.  CLAIMS 14 AND 15 OF THE ‘321 PATENT ARE OBVIOUS OVER
ISHIJIMA IN VIEW OF LANE FURTHER IN VIEW OF MUELLER ‘693
(GROUND 1) .................................................................................................................. 22 
A. 
Brief Overview of Ishijima .................................................................................. 23 
B. 
Brief Overview of Lane ....................................................................................... 25 
C. 
Brief Overview of Mueller ‘693 .......................................................................... 25 
D. 
Claim 14 ............................................................................................................... 26 
Claim 14[a]: Ishijima, Lane, and Mueller ‘693 teach a space launch
1. 
vehicle with rocket engines. ..................................................................... 26 
Claim 14[b]: Ishijima teaches a launch site ............................................. 27 
Claim 14[c]: Ishijima teaches a sea going platform ................................. 27 
Claim 14[d]: Ishijima in view of Mueller ‘693 teaches a means for
launching .................................................................................................. 28 
Claim 14[e]: Ishijima in view of Mueller ‘693 teaches a means for
igniting ..................................................................................................... 30 
Claim 14[f]: Ishijima in view of Mueller ‘693 teaches a means for
engine shutoff ........................................................................................... 31 
Claim 14[g]: Ishijima in view of Lane teaches a means for
reorienting ................................................................................................ 32 
Claim 14[h]: Ishijima in view of Lane further in view of Mueller
‘693 teaches a means for engine reignition .............................................. 34 
Claim 14[i]: Ishijima in view of Lane teaches a means for landing ........ 38 
Claim 14[j]: Ishijima in view of Mueller ‘693 teaches a means for
relaunching ............................................................................................... 40 
Claim 15 ............................................................................................................... 40 
E. 
VIII.  CONCLUSION .............................................................................................................. 41 

2. 
3. 
4. 

5. 

6. 

7. 

8. 

9. 
10. 



-ii-













EXHIBITS

Ex. No.

Title of Document

1101 U.S. Patent No. 8,678,321 to Jeffrey P. Bezos et al.

1102

Prosecution History of U.S. Patent No. 8,678,321 to Jeffrey P. Bezos
et al.

1103 Yoshiyuki Ishijima et al., Re-entry and Terminal Guidance for
Vertical-Landing TSTO (Two-Stage to Orbit), A Collection of
Technical Papers Part 1, AIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control
Conference and Exhibit, A98-37001 (“Ishijima”)

1104 U.S. Patent No. 5,873,549 to Jeffery G. Lane et al. (“Lane”)

1105 U.S. Patent No. 6,158,693 to George E. Mueller et al. (“Mueller ‘693”)

1106 U.S. Patent No. 5,927,653 to George E. Mueller et al. (“Mueller ‘653”)

1107 U.S. Patent No. 6,024,006 to Bjørn Kindem et al. (“Kindem”)

1108

Jack Waters, et al., Test Results of an F/A-18 Automatic Carrier
Landing Using Shipboard Relative GPS, Proceeding of the ION 57th
Annual Meeting and the CIGTF 20th Biennial Guidance Test
Symposium (2001) (“Waters”)

1109 U.S. Patent No. 6,450,452 to Robert B. Spencer et al. (“Spencer”)

1110

LUCY ROGERS, IT’S ONLY ROCKET SCIENCE: AN INTRODUCTION IN
PLAIN ENGLISH (2008).

1111 U.S. Patent No. 8,047,472 to Vance D. Brand et al. (“Brand”)

1112

STEVEN J. ISAKOWITZ, JOSEPH P. HOPKINS & JOSHUA B. HOPKINS,
INTERNATIONAL REFERENCE GUIDE TO SPACE LAUNCH SYSTEMS (4th
ed. 2004).

1113 MARSHALL H. KAPLAN, SPACE SHUTTLE: AMERICA'S WINGS TO THE
FUTURE (2nd ed. 1978).





-iii-









Ex. No.

Title of Document

1114 NASA, http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle (last visited Aug.
13, 2014).

1115

Ed Memi, A Step To The Moon: DC-X Experimental Lander Set Up
Boeing For Future NASA Work. BOEING FRONTIERS, 8-9.
http://www.boeing.com/news/frontiers/archive/2008/aug/i_history.pdf
(last visited Aug. 13, 2014).

1116 William Gaubatz, et al., DC-X Results and the Next Step, American
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, AIAA-94-4674 (1994).

1117 Declaration of Marshal H. Kaplan, Ph.D. dated August 25, 2014







-iv-





Petition for Inter Partes Review of US Patent No. 8,678,321
Docket No. SPAC-003/01US



 

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (“Petitioner” or “SpaceX”) hereby

petitions for inter partes review under 35 U.S.C. §§ 311-319 and 37 C.F.R. § 42 of

claims 14-15 of U.S. Patent No. 8,678,321 [Ex. 1101] (“‘321”).

I. MANDATORY NOTICES UNDER 37 C.F.R. § 42.8(A)(1)
A. Real Party-ln-lnterest under 37 C.F.R. § 42.8(b)(1)
Petitioner SpaceX is the real party-in-interest for the instant petition.

B. Related Matters under 37 C.F.R. § 42.8(b)(2)
Petitioner notes that it is concurrently filing a separate petition for inter

partes review of claims 1-13 of U.S. Patent No. 8,678,321.

C. Lead and Back-Up Counsel under 37 C.F.R. § 42.8(b)(3)
Petitioner provides the following designation of counsel.

LEAD COUNSEL
Heidi L. Keefe (Reg. No. 40,673)
Cooley LLP, ATTN: Patent Group
1299 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: (650) 843-5001
Fax: (650) 849-7400
hkeefe@cooley.com
zpatdcdocketing@cooley.com


BACK-UP COUNSEL
C Scott Talbot (Reg. No. 34,262)
Cooley LLP, ATTN: Patent Group
1299 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: (703) 456-8072
Fax: (202) 842-7899
stalbot@cooley.com
zpatdcdocketing@cooley.com



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Petition for Inter Partes Review of US Patent No. 8,678,321
Docket No. SPAC-003/01US



 

Service Information

D.
As identified in the attached Certificate of Service, a copy of the present

petition, in its entirety, including all Exhibits and a power of attorney, is being

served by EXPRESS MAIL® to the address of the attorney or agent of record for

the owner of record of the ‘321 patent, Blue Origin LLC. SpaceX may be served

at the lead counsel address provided in Section I.C. SpaceX consents to electronic

service by e-mail at the e-mail addresses provided above, which include both

individual e-mail addresses and a general docketing e-mail address.

Power of Attorney

E.
Filed herewith in accordance with 37 C.F.R. § 42.10(b).

II.

PAYMENT OF FEES - 37 C.F.R. § 42.103

This petition requests review of 2 claims of the ‘321 patent and is

accompanied by a payment of $23,000 for 2 claims. See 37 C.F.R. § 42.15. This

Petition therefore meets the fee requirements under 35 U.S.C. § 312(a)(1).

III. REQUIREMENTS FOR INTER PARTES REVIEW UNDER 37 C.F.R. § 42.104
A. Grounds for Standing under 37 C.F.R. § 42.104(a)
Petitioner certifies that the ‘321 patent is eligible for inter partes review and

that Petitioner is not barred or otherwise estopped from requesting inter partes

review challenging the identified claims on the grounds identified herein.



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Petition for Inter Partes Review of US Patent No. 8,678,321
Docket No. SPAC-003/01US



 

B.

Identification of Challenge under 37 C.F.R. § 42.104(b) and
Statement of Precise Relief Requested
Petitioner respectfully requests that the Board initiate inter partes review of

claims 14-15 of the ‘321 patent, and find them unpatentable based on the grounds

set forth herein. The prior art references upon which the invalidity challenge in

this Petition is based are listed below:

Prior Art Document
Ex. No.
1103 Yoshiyuki Ishijima et al., Re-entry and Terminal Guidance for Vertical-
Landing TSTO (Two-Stage to Orbit), A Collection of Technical Papers
Part 1, AIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference and
Exhibit, A98-37001 (“Ishijima”)
1104 U.S. Patent No. 5,873,549 to Jeffery G. Lane et al. (“Lane”)
1105 U.S. Patent No. 6,158,693 to George E. Mueller et al. (“Mueller ‘693”)

This Petition cites additional prior art materials for purposes of providing a

technology background and describing the state of the art at the time of the alleged

invention. These materials are also cited and discussed in the accompanying

Declaration of Marshall H. Kaplan dated August 25, 2014 [Ex. 1117] (“Kaplan

Decl.”), an expert with more than four decades of experience in spacecraft and

launch vehicles. The specific grounds for IPR are identified in the following table:



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Petition for Inter Partes Review of US Patent No. 8,678,321
Docket No. SPAC-003/01US



Claim(s)
Affected
14, 15

Proposed Ground for
Inter Partes Review
Obvious over Ishijima in view of Lane further in view of
Mueller ‘693 under § 103(a)

 

Ground
No.
1

As reflected in the chart above, this Petition relies on the combination of

Ishijima, Lane, and Mueller ‘693 for demonstrating the obviousness of claims 14

and 15. Each of the references relied upon above qualifies as prior art to the ‘321

patent under at least 35 U.S.C. § 102(b) (pre-AIA). A specific explanation of the

ground listed above is set forth in Part VII below.

C. Threshold for Inter Partes Review 37 C.F.R. § 42.108(c)
The Board should institute inter partes review of claims 14-15 because this

Petition establishes a reasonable likelihood of prevailing with respect to each

challenged claim. See 35 U.S.C. § 314(a). Each limitation of each claim

challenged herein is disclosed and/or suggested by the prior art, as explained

below.

IV. TECHNOLOGY BACKGROUND RELEVANT TO THE ‘321 PATENT
The ‘321 patent, entitled “Sea Landing of Space Launch Vehicles and

Associated Systems and Methods,” generally relates to a system for landing and

recovering portions of a space launch vehicle on a platform at sea or in a body of

water. (‘321 patent, Abstract.) The accompanying declaration of Dr. Kaplan



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Petition for Inter Partes Review of US Patent No. 8,678,321
Docket No. SPAC-003/01US



 

describes the state of the art at the time of the alleged invention. (See Kaplan Decl.

¶¶ 15-44.) This section provides an overview of that description.

“Rocket Science”

A.
History changed on October 4, 1957 when the former Soviet Union launched

Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite ever launched into orbit. This event sparked

a “space race” between the United States and the former Soviet Union, which

culminated in the United States landing on the moon in 1969. (Lucy Rogers, It’s

ONLY Rocket Science: An Introduction in Plain English (2008) [Ex. 1110], at 1.)

The ensuing years witnessed an extraordinary number of scientific and

technological breakthroughs for launching objects into space and bringing them

back.

These breakthroughs captured the public imagination and created a new

vernacular, with terms like “rocket science,” referring to fields generally reserved

for only the most intelligent. (Id.) But by 2009, the earliest possibly priority date

listed on the face of the patent, the basic concepts of “rocket science” were well-

known and widely understood. The “rocket science” claimed in the ‘321 patent

was, at best, “old hat” by 2009. (Kaplan Decl. ¶ 19.)

Launch Vehicles

B.
To understand the process for launching objects into space, one should be

familiar with the concept of a “launch vehicle,” which is a device used to launch
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one or more other objects – known as the “payload” – into space. (Id. ¶ 20.)

Examples of “payloads” include satellites, space probes, telescopes, equipment for

research and experimentation, and manned or unmanned spacecraft (small vehicle,

usually a capsule, that maneuvers in space). The launch vehicle typically includes

one or more rocket engines that propel the launch vehicle and carry the payload

into space. (See Ex. 1110 at 30.) As explained in the Background of the ‘321

patent, “[r]ocket powered launch vehicles have been used for many years to carry

human and non-human payloads into space.” (‘321 patent at 1:49-50.)

C. Multistage Rockets
Most launch vehicles utilize a rocket assembly with multiple different

“stages,” commonly referred to as a “multistage rocket.” The concept behind

multistage rockets has been known since the 1500s, when Johann Schmidlap, a

German fireworks manufacturer, designed a “step rocket” to propel his fireworks

to higher altitudes by strapping a smaller rocket atop a larger one. The larger

rocket ignited first and carried the fireworks into the air. When the large rocket

exhausted its fuel, the smaller rocket detached and ignited, carrying the fireworks

to even higher altitudes using the smaller rocket’s own fuel. (Ex. 1110 at 27.)

Modern “multi-stage” rockets use precisely the same approach for the same

simple reason as Schmidlap’s “step rocket”: by shedding the mass of the used-up



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“booster” stage(s) along the way, the rocket is able to carry heavier payloads

farther. To date, all successful orbital launch vehicles have employed multiple

rocket stages because “[t]he weight of the rocket, including the engines, fuel and

payload, is too large for current propulsion systems to get into orbit in one stage.”

(Id.)

Each rocket stage typically “contains its own propellant, engines,

instrumentation and airframe, so that it can function independently.” (Id.) The

first stage, is responsible for lifting the payload and all other stages off the surface

of the Earth. (Id. at 27-28.) “Usually, the first stage burns for only a couple of

minutes. After it has used all of its propellant, the empty propellant tank, engine,

instrumentation and airframe are just dead weight and are jettisoned and usually

return to Earth.” (Id. at 28.) The next stage then ignites and carries the payload

and any remaining stage even higher. As of 2008, rockets with up to five stages

had been developed and launched. (Id.)

D. Reusable Spacecraft and “Reusable Launch Vehicles” (RLVs)
Traveling to space has always been an expensive proposition, and there has

long been an interest in developing launch vehicles that can be partially or

completely reused. (See Kaplan Decl. ¶ 23.) By the 1970s, the expense of relying

on expendable launch vehicles to reach space led to the Space Shuttle program.

(Id.) The reusable Space Shuttle orbiter landed horizontally like an airplane after



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Petition for Inter Partes Review of US Patent No. 8,678,321
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space missions. (Ex. 1110 at 62-63.) Even with the partially reusable Space

Shuttle, the cost to reach space remained staggeringly expensive. (Kaplan Decl. ¶

24.)

By the late-1970s, industry recognized that the need for reusability also

extended to booster stages. As explained in U.S. Patent No. 5,927,653 to George

E. Mueller et al. (“Mueller ‘653”) [Ex. 1106], filed in 1996, “[o]ne of the most

significant problems facing industry with respect to satellite deployment is the

extremely high cost to transport the satellite to a desired orbit.” (Ex. 1106 at 1:29-

31.) Mueller ‘653 reported that launching an unmanned satellite into orbit in 1996

could cost from $40 million to $200 million, depending on the type of rocket

required. (Id. at 1:31-35.) Mueller and others recognized that substantial cost

savings could be realized by reusing booster stages. (Kaplan Decl. ¶ 25.) Mueller

‘653 therefore disclosed “a reliable, reusable and cost-effective system for

deployment of payloads to low Earth orbit.” (Ex. 1106 at 2:23-26 (emphasis

added).)

These concerns were echoed in U.S. Patent No. 5,873,549 to Jeffrey G. Lane

et al. (“Lane”) [Ex. 1104], also filed in 1996. Lane describes reusable single stage

to orbit (“SSTO”) launch vehicle. SSTO vehicles “are designed to perform their

intended operation and return to earth without jettisoning any portions of the



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Petition for Inter Partes Review of US Patent No. 8,678,321
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vehicle.” (Ex. 1104 at 1:12-16.) Lane and Mueller ‘653 confirm that by at least

1996, industry had recognized and responded to the need for reusable launch

vehicles, which provide cost savings over prior techniques that rely on single-use

rockets. (Kaplan Decl. ¶¶ 25-26.)

Sea Landing of Reusable Launch Vehicles

E.
The industry also recognized a need for reusable launch vehicles that could

land at sea. The advantages of landing a reusable launch vehicle at sea have also

long been obvious and straightforward to persons of ordinary skill in the art.

Landing a launch vehicle or launch vehicle component at sea reduces the risk of

accidental loss of life or property in the event of a vehicle malfunction or crash.

(Kaplan Decl. ¶ 34.) It also simplifies down-range landing of boosters, which are

typically launched from coastal launch sites, by eliminating the need for the

boosters to substantially change their trajectory to reach a particular location on

land, thereby minimizing their expenditure of propellant. (See Kaplan Decl. ¶ 32.)

For example, throughout the prosecution of the ‘321 patent, the claims were

rejected over U.S. Patent No. 8,047,472 to Vance D. Brand et al. (“Brand”) [Ex.

1111], which disclosed a “reusable launch system” in which the lower stage

“descends to touchdown on a barge in the ocean” (id. at 5:41-42).



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Petition for Inter Partes Review of US Patent No. 8,678,321
Docket No. SPAC-003/01US



 

A similar technique was described in a 1998 publication by Yoshiyuki

Ishijima et al., “Re-entry and Terminal Guidance for Vertical-Landing TSTO

(Two-Stage to Orbit),” AAIA Pub. No. 98-4120 (“Ishijima”) [Ex. 1103]. Ishijima

explains that “the research about Reusable Launch Vehicles (RLV) is becoming

more active, because they have the potential to reduce the cost of space

transportation.” (Ex. 1103 at 192.) Ishijima discloses a TSTO system in which the

first stage “is recovered and transferred to the launch site on a large tanker or

pontoon,” as shown in Figure 1 of

Ishijima shown at the right. (Id. at 192,

193 (Fig. 1).) Ishijima explains that

“[i]n order to land in a limited area such

as a tanker on the sea, the re-entry and

terminal guidance should be accurate

and robust.” (Id. at 192.)

V.

SUMMARY OF THE CLAIMED SUBJECT MATTER
A. The Specification of the ‘321 Patent
The reusable launch vehicle techniques described in Section IV above were

known to persons of ordinary skill in the art by at least the late 1990s, but this fact

went largely unnoticed by the patent owner during the original prosecution of the

‘321 patent. The Background portion of the ‘321 patent pays lip service to the
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Docket No. SPAC-003/01US



 

existence of prior art reusable launch vehicles (RLVs), but does not describe them

in any detail. (‘321 patent at 1:60-62.) Nor does the specification identify any

specific drawback of existing RLVs that the alleged invention seeks to address.

(Id.)

The ‘321 patent instead attempts to lay claim over the technique described

by Ishijima in 1998 of landing a reusable space launch vehicle on a “sea-going

platform,” such as a “free-floating, ocean-going barge” or other vessel. (‘321

patent at 5:14-20.) The basic technique disclosed in the specification of the ‘321

patent is shown in Fig. 1 of the patent:

‘321 patent Fig. 1
Fig. 1, above, shows “a flight profile of a reusable launch vehicle that

performs a vertical powered landing on a sea-going platform in accordance with an





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embodiment of the disclosure.” (Id. at 3:10-13.) The left side of Fig. 1 shows a

launch vehicle (100) situated on a “coastal or other land-based launch site 140.”

(‘321 patent at 3:13-15, 3:42-43.) The launch vehicle (100) includes “a first or

booster stage” (110) and “a second or upper stage” (130). (Id. at 3:13-15.) The

right side of Fig. 1 shows a “sea-going platform” (150) that may be located “a

hundred or more miles downrange from the coastal launch site 140.” (Id. at 4:13-

15.)

The specification explains that the launch vehicle (100) “takes off from a

coastal or other land-based launch site 140 and then turns out over an ocean 102.”

(Id. at 3:42-44.) After the booster stage (110) shuts off at high altitude, it

“separates from the upper stage 130 and continues along a ballistic trajectory.” (Id.

at 3:64-66.) The booster stage (110) then reorients itself into a “tail first” position

and then moves toward the sea-going platform (150). (Id. at 4:3-6.)

In order to land the booster stage (110) on the sea-going platform (150), the

booster stage “restarts the booster engines 116 to slow its descent.” (Id. at 4:51-

55.) “The booster stage 110 then performs a vertical, powered landing on the

platform 150 at low speed.” (Id. at 4:55-57.)

The specification does not provide any detailed description of how to land

the booster stage (110) at sea. In fact, the specification admits that details



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associated with “launching and landing space launch vehicles” are “well-known,”

and therefore not set forth in the specification “to avoid unnecessarily obscuring

the various embodiments of the disclosure.” (Id. at 2:32-37.)

Summary of the Relevant Prosecution History

B.
Throughout prosecution, the claims were repeatedly rejected over the Brand

patent which, as noted previously, disclosed a reusable launch system in which the

lower stage lands on a barge in the ocean. (See Ex. 1111 at 5:41-42.)

The patent owner did not dispute that Brand disclosed the use of a reusable

launch vehicle that could land on a sea-going platform. It instead argued that

Brand discloses an “air-breathing” booster and not a rocket. (Ex. 1102 at 191-94.)

The difference between an air-breathing engine and a rocket would have been

plainly obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art considering not only that Brand

disclosed both types of engines, but also that the ‘321 patent itself describes an

embodiment in which jet engines are attached to the booster to perform vertical

landing maneuvers.

(‘321 patent at 5:1-13.)

The Examiner, however,

subsequently allowed the claims, reasoning that Brand did not teach “vertically

landing the space launch vehicle . . . while providing thrust from at least one or

more rocket engines . . . [because] Brand specifically teaches away from the use of



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rocket engines in the booster stage.” (Ex. 1102 at 12-13.) The ‘321 patent

subsequently issued on March 25, 2014.

C. The Claims of the ‘321 Patent
The sole independent claim addressed in this Petition, claim 14, purports to

recite a system for providing access to space, including a space launch vehicle with

rocket engines that performs various operations, including launch, engine shut-off,

reorientation, engine reignition, landing, and relaunching. Most of the elements in

claim 14 are written in “means-plus-function” claim format. Claim 14 recites in

full:

14[a] A system for providing access to space, the system comprising: a
space launch vehicle, wherein the space launch vehicle includes one
or more rocket engines;
14[b] a launch site;
14[c] a sea going platform;
14[d] means for launching the launch vehicle from the launch site a first
time;
14[e] wherein the means for launching include means for igniting the one
or more rocket engines and launching the vehicle in a nose-first
orientation;
14[f] means for shutting off the one or more rocket engines;
14[g] means for reorienting the launch vehicle from the nose-first
orientation to a tail-first orientation before landing;



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14[h] means for reigniting at least one of the one or more rocket engines
when the launch vehicle is in the tail-first orientation to decelerate
the vehicle;
14[i] means for landing at least a portion of the launch vehicle on the sea
going platform in a body of water, wherein the means for landing
include means for landing in the tail-first orientation while the one
or more rocket engines are thrusting; and
14[j] means for launching at least a portion of the launch vehicle from the
launch site a second time.

(‘321 patent at 10:45-67 (Claim 14) (bracketed notations (e.g., “[a],” “[b],” etc.)

added to facilitate easier identification of the specific claim limitations in this

Petition).)

Dependent claim 15 merely adds detail about the vehicle landing; it adds

nothing of patentable significance, as shown in Part VII below.

VI. CLAIM CONSTRUCTION UNDER 37 C.F.R. § 42.104(B)(3)
A claim subject to inter partes review must be given its “broadest reasonable

construction in light of the specification of the patent in which it appears.” 37

C.F.R. § 42.100(b). As the Federal Circuit has recognized, the “broadest

reasonable construction” standard is different from the manner in which the scope



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of a claim is determined in litigation.1 (See In re Swanson, 540 F.3d 1368, 1377-

78 (Fed. Cir. 2008).) Petitioner accordingly requests that the Board adopt the

broadest reasonable construction of each challenged claim. For claim terms not

addressed below, Petitioner has applied the plain and ordinary meaning of those

terms.

“Space Launch Vehicle”

A.
The term “space launch vehicle” is recited in independent claim 14 as the

vehicle that is launched and reoriented, and a portion of which is then landed. The

specification uses this term to refer to a device used to carry a payload into space.

(‘321 patent at 1:49-50 (“Rocket powered launch vehicles have been used for

many years to carry human and non-human payloads into space.”).) This is

consistent with the understood meaning of “launch vehicle” to persons of ordinary

skill in the art. (Kaplan Decl. ¶ 54; see also Ex. 1110 at 30 (“The launch vehicle is

the rocket, including all of the stages, that is used to launch a payload into


1 Petitioner’s proposed constructions in Section VI are based on the broadest

reasonable construction in light of the specification. See 37 C.F.R. § 42.100(b);

M.P.E.P. § 2111. Petitioner does not concede that those constructions would be

appropriate in litigation or any other proceeding that applies a different standard

governing claim construction. See In re Zletz, 893 F.2d 319, 321 (Fed. Cir. 1989).



16



Petition for Inter Partes Review of US Patent No. 8,678,321
Docket No. SPAC-003/01US



 

space.”).) Petitioner accordingly requests that the Board find that the broadest

reasonable construction of “space launch vehicle” is “a device used to carry a

payload into space.”

“Nose-First Orientation” and “Tail-First Orientation”

B.
The terms “nose-first orientation” and “tail-first orientation” appear in

independent claim 14 to describe the positioning of the “space launch vehicle” or

“at least a portion of the launch vehicle” at different phases of operation. As

discussed above, to date, all space launch vehicles have included a booster stage.

The specification of the ‘321 patent explains that “the booster stage 110

[Fig. 1] can reenter the atmosphere nose-first, and then reorient to a tail-first

orientation just prior to landing.” (’321 patent at 4:6-8, Fig. 1.) The specification

further explains that a “tail-first orientation” exists when “the aft end [of the

booster stage] is pointing in the direction of motion.” (Id. at 4:4-5.) The

specification acknowledges that this is not a constant state because the booster may

rotate off-axis, requiring efforts to s

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