Blue Origin abandons patent for barge-landing a rocket

The heat of competition: After losing a decision of the U.S. Patent office in a dispute with SpaceX, Blue Origin has withdrawn the patent it was awarded in March 2014 for vertical landing a rocket on an ocean-going barge.

In an order made public today, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board granted a motion to cancel the remaining 13 of 15 claims in the Blue Origin rocket-landing patent. Blue Origin itself had made the motion to cancel those claims, effectively acknowledging that its case was lost.

Blue Origin, based in Kent, Wash., has separately filed a “reissue” patent application covering the same general area. However, SpaceX has already attempted multiple rocket landings at sea and would likely be grandfathered in, allowing it to continue the practice, even if Blue Origin were to ultimately succeed in securing a valid patent.

The two companies are definitely in a heated competition. This is not the only legal dispute they have had, with SpaceX winning previously as well. Blue Origin had challenged the award of a 20-year lease to SpaceX of its launchpad at Kennedy. It lost.

In this case, it was absurd on its face for the patent office to award this patent to Blue Origin, especially since, at the time it did so, SpaceX was clearly already doing this exact thing.