Patent Enablement: Patenting Tropical Storms

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On Tuesday, February 25 2014, the Federal Circuit upheld a decision of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to deny a method patent for a tropical hurricane control system.  The invention was created by two inventors and involves shooting supercool liquid nitrogen from a storm plane into a hurricane to break up the storm.  Specifically, super coolant would cause the wall of the eye of a storm to implode, diminishing the storm’s intensity.  Unfortunately for them, the USPTO felt the patent application did not have enough information to enable others to use the invention.

The inventors feel they did present enough information and the USPTO simply did not pay enough attention.  However the Federal Circuit concluded not only was the information insufficient, but the inventors’ calculations were wrong.  Additionally, those calculations were never tested.  The USPTO examiner specifically took issue with unexplained assumptions in the patent application.  Patents must be enabling to others skilled in the art.  Therefore the patent application has been rejected for requiring undue experimentation by others to achieve the results claimed in the patent application.

The inventors claimed the government had already implemented their method in secret.  However, the court said the inventors had no evidence to back their claim.  All they had was a speculative inference of government use since fewer named storms have made landfall in the United States in recent years.

The inventors have said they will appeal this decision to the United States Supreme Court.  That does not mean the court will grant certiorari though.  As it is stands now, the inventors will not receive patent protection for their idea and will not in the future unless the come up with another novel method of busting tropical storms.