Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Who Invented GPS? Is a Patent Ruckus Brewing Over the Claimed Invention of GPS Navigation Technology and the Attendant Patent 3,789,409 ?

Who invented GPS?

The question is an important one because it has a disputed answer and as such throws light on the question of what kinds of things should be patentable
-- or, stated more generally --
should private persons be able to patent "claimed" parts of inventions which, as a whole, were demonstrably designed by many people and financed by billion-dollar outlays by the United States government?

This question applies to a lot of the government-funded research at universities which in the past has led to private persons obtaining patent monopolies by which they subsequently rip off the taxpaying citizenry and establish vast technological empires - originally paid for by Uncle Sam, as the nation itself flounders for cash while private interests swim in patent monopoly money.

This flawed patent system must -- in our opinion -- be changed to reflect the reality that purely "individual" inventions are rare in the modern technical world and that much recent human progress is a large team effort, based on vast amounts of prior art,  from which private individuals should not unduly profit. Stated otherwise, many of the patents now in private hands but actually reflecting "government work" should probably be in the hands of the US government -- a situation which would greatly reduce the tax burdens of U.S. citizens.

In any case, according to the April 7, 2010 posting True Story of GPS Yet to Be Told at GPS World, a ruckus appeared to be brewing over the origins of GPS technology and the May 1, 2010 posting at GPS World by Stephen T. Powers and Brad Parkinson titled The Origins of GPS: And the Pioneers Who Launched the System (Part I) confirmed that assessment, writing:
"We call this a tribute to the almost-forgotten people whose intellectual labor and skill initially developed GPS. As we unveil this story, we will point out the original — and critical — system study, the 1966 Woodford/Nakamura Report, that became the essential blueprint for GPS. Many people are unaware of this study since, in its original form, it was classified U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Secret. It was not declassified until August 1979, more than a year after the first launch of a GPS operational satellite in February 1978...

As early as 1962, Dr. Ivan Getting, president of the Aerospace Corporation, saw the need for a new satellite-based navigation system. He envisioned a more accurate positioning system that would be available in three dimensions, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He had direct access to the highest levels of the Pentagon and was a tireless advocate for his vision....

By 1962, engineers at Aerospace, under Air Force sponsorship, were heavily immersed in studying the system aspects of a new navigational satellite system. From 1964 to 1966, Aerospace carried out an extensive, formal system study whose principal authors were James Woodford and Hideyoshi Nakamura, both highly regarded space-systems engineers.
Their work was summarized as a DoD secret briefing in August 1966. As a result of the classification, it was unavailable to anyone outside the project until 13 years later, in 1979, when it was finally declassified (figure 4)....

In October 1970, more than four years after the completion of this study, Roger Easton of NRL applied for a patent on the two-satellite, ρ-ρ technique (option N) that required an atomic clock for the user and was only two-dimensional. The patent (U.S. 3,789,409) was granted in 1974, a year after the three-dimensional design of the GPS system had already been defined in the Lonely Halls Pentagon meeting to be described later....

In 1964, the U.S. Navy initiated a second satellite program, named Timation, under the direction of Roger L. Easton, Sr., a long-time member of the NRL staff. The NRL’s Timation project was aimed at exploring techniques for passive ranging to satellites, as well as time transfer between various timing centers around the world. This project ran parallel to, and was in competition with, the Air Force Program. It subsequently developed a number of experimental satellites, the first of which was called Timation 1. This small satellite, weighing 85 pounds and producing 6 watts of power, was launched on May 27, 1967....

Recently an article appeared that implied that the GPS design was essentially the same as Timation. (“In what ways did GPS improve on Timation?” Easton: “I can’t think of any ways in which GPS improved on Timation. Essentially, they are the same system.” Interview in High Frontier magazine.)

Aware that this incorrect statement denigrated the people who had first analyzed, advocated, and demonstrated the fundamental concept, as well as built the system, Parkinson resolved to correct the record, and highlight the names of those who deserve credit. This is a major purpose of this article. This article has been reviewed and approved for veracity by virtually all the key figures (still alive) who actually designed, built, and tested GPS."
On October 8, 1970 Roger L. Easton filed a patent application for a Navigation System Using Satellites and Passive Ranging Techniques, for which a patent was issued on January 29, 1974 by the USPTO as U.S. Patent Number 3,789,409. The patent abstract provided:
"A navigation system wherein the navigator's location is obtained by determining the navigator's distance (or range) from one or more satellites of known location. Each satellite transmits multifrequency signals that are derived from a stable oscillator which is phase synchronized with the navigator's equipment that produces similar multifrequency signals. Phase comparison between the signals received from the satellites and the locally produced signals indicates both the distance between the navigator and the satellites and the navigator's location. In determining his location, the presence of the navigator is not revealed since no interrogatory transmission by him is required."
So who really "invented" GPS? One man? Hardly.

We recommend a reading of The Origins of GPS at GPS World.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Selected World Countries per capita in U.S. Dollars at Current Prices 2009 - Source: IMF Chart Generator as adapted by LawPundit | Denmark Leads the Normal World in Income Equality

We put together the following chart for internal use recently and pass it on as a potentially useful piece of information in assessing the world economic and political situation.

It is singularly remarkable that the country with the highest GDP for a "normal economy", i.e. not one based on oil or banking, is Denmark -- and that is also the country with the greatest equality of income in its population according to the Gini coefficient. Maybe the rest of the world has the wrong formula.

It also appears to us that the conflict in the world today is economic and not religious, based on these figures, which show a clear division of the world between the "haves" and the "have nots".

A Selected List of The GDP in US Dollars of
EU Euro-Zone and non-Euro-Zone Countries 2009

(+ EFTA and some non-European countries added for comparison)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita U.S. $$ at current prices
Source: IMF Chart Generator, as selected and reordered by LawPundit
(some columns have been deleted, some labels have been shortened

and the numbers have been rounded -- go to the IMF Chart Generator
or to this page at Wikipedia if you want original or more inclusive data)

       Shaded cells indicate IMF staff estimates
Country (State)

Subject Descriptor
(GDP per capita 2009,
current prices)
U.S. $$
Luxembourg - EU
(world's #1 - via banking),

Liechtenstein, not ranked by the
IMF, surely has a higher GDP
GDP per capita104,512
Norway - EFTA, EEA (oil)GDP per capita79,085
Qatar (oil)GDP per capita68,872
Switzerland - EFTA
(via banking)
GDP per capita67,560
Denmark - EU (world's
best income distribution)
GDP per capita56,115
Ireland - EUGDP per capita51,356
Netherlands - EUGDP per capita48,223
United Arab Emirates (oil)GDP per capita46,857
United StatesGDP per capita46,381
Austria - EUGDP per capita45,989
AustraliaGDP per capita45,587
Finland - EUGDP per capita44,492
Sweden - EUGDP per capita43,986
Belgium - EUGDP per capita43,533
France - EUGDP per capita42,747
Germany - EUGDP per capita40,875
JapanGDP per capita39,731
CanadaGDP per capita39,669
Iceland - EFTA, EEAGDP per capita37,977
SingaporeGDP per capita37,293
Italy - EUGDP per capita35,435
United Kingdom - EUGDP per capita35,334
Spain - EUGDP per capita31,946
Hong Kong SARGDP per capita29,826
Greece - EUGDP per capita29,635
Cyprus - EUGDP per capita29,620
Slovenia - EUGDP per capita24,417
New ZealandGDP per capita27,259
IsraelGDP per capita26,797
Brunei DarussalamGDP per capita26,325
The BahamasGDP per capita21,529
Portugal - EUGDP per capita21,408
Malta - EUGDP per capita19,111
Czech Republic - EUGDP per capita18,557
South KoreaGDP per capita17,074
TaiwanGDP per capita16,392
Slovak Republic - EUGDP per capita16,282
Saudi ArabiaGDP per capita14,486
Estonia - EUGDP per capita14,267
CroatiaGDP per capita14,243
Hungary - EUGDP per capita12,927
Latvia - EUGDP per capita11,607
Poland - EUGDP per capita11,288
Lithuania - EUGDP per capita11,172
TurkeyGDP per capita8,723
RussiaGDP per capita8,694
BrazilGDP per capita8,220
MexicoGDP per capita8,135
Romania - EUGDP per capita7,542
MalaysiaGDP per capita6,897
Bulgaria - EUGDP per capita6,223
South AfricaGDP per capita5,824
SerbiaGDP per capita5,809
Former Yugoslav
Republic of
GDP per capita4,482
IranGDP per capita4,460
Bosnia and
GDP per capita4,279
ThailandGDP per capita3,940
AlbaniaGDP per capita3,825
ChinaGDP per capita3,678
SyriaGDP per capita2,579
EgyptGDP per capita2,450
IndonesiaGDP per capita2,329
IraqGDP per capita2,108
PhilippinesGDP per capita1,746
VietnamGDP per capita1,060
IndiaGDP per capita1,031
PakistanGDP per capita1,017
BangladeshGDP per capita574
AfghanistanGDP per capita486

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