United States: Airbus Patents The Method Of Flying I Mastered As A Child

Last Updated: August 12 2015
Article by Justin F. McNaughton

A few weeks ago, Airbus received a U.S. patent for an airplane. More specifically, Airbus' patent is for what every 5-year old boy has been flying since the invention of die cast toys: a plane that takes off nearly vertically, flying across the sky at dangerous speeds, before miraculously dropping nearly straight down to a perfect landing, sometimes.

It even looks like the ones we drew, right?

The original patent can be found here: Airbus Extreme.

So what has Airbuspatented?

Before answering that question, let's run through the various parts of a patent. Below is the front page of the Airbus patent with a few useful markers to show the various key parts. For the most part, you can ignore everything else for now. The patent number on a U.S. application is in the top right corner, and the title is just below the line. Following the title isa lot of bibliographic information about the patent and its family tree. Next comes the abstract.

Following the abstract arethe drawings. I've excerpted the first page, but you get the idea.

Everything in between the drawings and the claims (at the very end) is referred to as the specification. The first part of the specification is the background of the invention (this part describes how bleak the world was before before this invention).

The next part of the specification gives a summary description of the patent drawings above.

The last section of the specification is the Detailed Description. This is the section that typically has awkward numbers after many of the terms to "help" you correlate the words to the drawings. Note that Airbus called this section the detailed account of preferred embodiments, but you won't see mention of "preferred embodiments" in applications filed within the last few years.

Finally, bringing up the end of the patent are the claims. They follow a general clause that states "I claim," "The invention claimed is," etc. Typically the longer claims are the independent claims (no reference to another claim) and the shorter ones are the dependent claims (start by saying the device of claim x). Independent claims are self-standing.

Below is independent claim 1:

By contrast, dependent claims include every element set out in the referenced claim as well as the new material. Below is dependent claim 2:

The claims above are for a device, while the claim below is for a method. Note that you can infringe a device claim without ever using the device.

Each claim has a preamble and a number of elements to it. An accused device (or method) must have each element in a claim to be infringing, but only one claim in the patent is required for a device (or method) to be infringing. The preamble is typically not a required element, but is provided to orient the reader.

So back to the original question: What has Airbus patented?

There is a lot to choose from. Often times people begin describing aninvention from either the drawings or the specification because they give a summary of what the practical application of the invention is; people love summaries. However, Airbus really has a patent only on what appears in the claims. Without context, this sounds like semantics because the specification is supposed to describe what is in the claims. However, take a look at claim 1against Fig. 1. As an example, Fig. 1 shows three sets of wheels on the bottom of the airplane, but claim 1 doesn't require any wheels at all. Nor would they be needed since claim 1 doesn't require flying either.

Now take a look at claim 8. Claim 8 is basically, "usethe plane in Claim 1 and take off." If you read the specification or have any experience with planes at all, you'll appreciate that, arguably, one of the most important parts of flying is landing. A careful reading of claim 8 reveals that landing this sucker is not required; your estate can settle that suit, I guess.

Before you get too excited, claim 11 covers most of your decent toward landing, evenif you happened to board the plane mid-flight. I guess you could still botch the final landing and infringe claim 1 for your estate to settle though.

In all fairness, I don't think my toy planes had ramjets, liquid hydrogen, or liquid oxygen. The potential created from adding these features makes all of those handheld plane crashes of my childhood seem so mundane.

I almost forgot to mention. Airbus' plane is supposed to travel at MACH 4.5. Honestly, how could I have forgotten to work that in somewhere?

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Justin F. McNaughton
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