This is the patent that Planet Labs, Inc. holds for a constellation of satellites:


It only contains a single independent claim:

A system for use in spatial imaging of planetary bodies through a series of steps comprising;

a) implementation into space a network of, ranging from a singular to plural, constellation of orbital elements;

b) enabling said constellation of orbital elements, through an algorithmic calculated means, to jointly achieve a desired revisit rate and spatial coverage;

c) controlling said constellation through a remote transmission means;

The question is, if that claim doesn't cover any constellation of satellites that are imaging the earth? Would that mean, that the patent covers nothing but prior art?

The patent even states:

The largest Earth-observation satellite constellation as of July 2013 contained 6 satellites (Disaster Monitoring Constellation).

  • These satellites constitute a constellation, that images the eart
  • They are certainly controlled by some algorithm
  • They may revisit spots of the earths surface

Does this mean, that this constellation may also be covered by the patent?

All of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation satellites were launched prior to the patent date of the aforementioned patent.

1 Answer 1


This is a patent application, not an issued patent. It has already received a first office action, a non-final rejection. You can check on this app's status by looking on Public PAIR. It is actually a pretty serious rejection -- the examiner objected to the drawings, lectured the applicant on how an application should be written, then rejected all of the claims based on improper claims and prior art. I wouldn't spend a whole lot of time worrying about the claims as they were filed (there are 10 pending claims currently), since it is a near impossibility that they will issue in their current form.

Inventions intended for use in space are also subject to special rules about when they are infringed -- https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/35/105

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