Patenting Orbital Tech and Techniques

Orbital Operations are patentable subject matter, while the orbits themselves likely aren't.

Orbital Operations are patentable subject matter, while the orbits themselves likely aren’t.

When it comes to orbits, what is patent-eligible? A requirement of 35 U.S.C. 101 is that “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”

As an orbit in and of itself is a natural phenomenon, it can not receive a patent. However, “useful systems which incorporate particular orbits, such as technological solutions for providing telecommunications which utilize equipment in those orbits, are patent-eligible.”

So what does this mean for up and coming players like Planet Labs, Planetary Resources, and SpaceX compared to long time spaceflight companies like Boeing?  Find out by reading Becky Ferreira’s article on Motherboard where I shared my thoughts on the future of orbit-related patents.