Scott Daniels | May 4, 2010

The PTO Board of Appeals affirmed yesterday the rejection of two DIRECTV satellite communication patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,389,336 and 6,327,523.

The ‘336 patent claims a satellite communication system that includes a service area on the surface of the Earth, having a predetermined minimum elevation angle from the horizon over a service area.  The system includes a satellite orbiting the Earth along a “skytrack” when viewed from the service area on Earth.  The satellite operates on an “operating arc” that is “defined by a subset of the points on the skytrack” while at the predetermined minimum elevation angle (emphasis added).

The primary reference relied upon by the examiner disclosed each of the claimed elements of the ‘336 satellite system, except for the “operating arc.”  The examiner cited a secondary reference disclosing the need for a satellite to conserve power, specifically, by shutting down its transmission-reception means when the satellite leaves its area of operation, turning its beam off over areas where operation is prohibited.  Also, during its period over the service area, the disclosed satellite maintained an elevation angle in the manner as the satellites mentioned in the ‘336 specification.  For the examiner, this disclosure in the secondary reference satisfied the claim requirement for operation on only a “subset of the points” on the skytrack.

The ‘523 patent claimed a very similar type of satellite system, and the examiner applied essentially the same analysis to the claims of that patent.

The Board agreed with the examiner and affirmed the rejection of the ‘336 claims and most of the ‘523 claims.   The Board did, however, reverse the rejection of dependent claims 3 and 7 of the ‘523, chastising the examiner for not pointing out where in the art the limitations of those claims were disclosed.

We expect that DIRECTV will now appeal the rejections to the CAFC.

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