Impression v. Lexmark, Rocketry News, and LIGO’s Latest | Vol. 4 / No. 32

Seeing as how we all know at this point that Donald Trump has announced he’s going to try to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement, I’m not going to talk about that today. Suffice it to say that we’re all disappointed, and that it’ll take years to do, so keep fighting (and VOTE).

So let’s talk about something else for a change.

Photo: Andy Melton, CC BY-SA 2.0

Impression v. Lexmark

This week the news came out that a seven-year court battle, ostensibly about refillable ink cartridges, had been won. Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the cartridge refillers, Impression Products, won. This is a pretty huge story, not just because it means that you can refill printer cartridges (because, I mean, I guess people still print things sometimes) but because of what it means for other products, especially pharmaceuticals. The long and short of it is that US patent rights can now be considered to expire at the moment of sale, meaning resale of products sold abroad is protected. As Adam Clark Estes writes over at Gizmodo, “Giants like Pfizer and Eli Lilly and Co. PhRMA wanted the court to protect US patents abroad because that would help them prevent Americans from buying their drugs for much cheaper prices in countries like Canada and Mexico and then bringing them back to the States.” It’s a pretty big deal and it didn’t get a ton of press coverage, so if you have a few minutes, go read the piece at Gizmodo.


The Rocket Lab Electron lifting off from New Zealand | Photo: Rocket Lab

Rocket News

We’ve got two big pieces of rocket news this week. First, Rocket Lab, a US/New Zealand rocket startup targeting the small satellite launch market, had a very successful test flight of its Electron rocket on Thursday. While it didn’t go perfectly—they’re still exploring why the second stage didn’t quite get to orbit—there were significant successes: liftoff, passing through Max-Q, stage separation, even the fairing separation went off without a hitch, which is great at this stage in the game. The Electron will cost only $4.9 million to launch, and will be able to carry 330 lbs (a big stack of cube sats, for instance) into a polar orbit favoured by many for taking photos of the Earth’s surface. Their CEO says they’re on track time-wise for commercial launches late this year, and you can read more about it at Spaceflight Now.

The second bit of rocketry news is a look forward to tomorrow morning when, at 7:58am ET, India will be launching its GSLV-III rocket for the first time. The three-stage launcher will be able to carry 22,000lbs to low earth orbit, about half of the payload capacity of the SpaceX Falcon 9, but it’s still a huge step forward for India. Bear in mind that there aren’t many countries in the world capable of doing what they’re about to. Here’s hoping it goes off without a hitch and that we get to see some great science going forward. You can read more about it at the Planetary Society.


LIGO on Hanford Reservation” by UmptanumSelf-photographed. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Three Times at LIGO

You remember back in February of last year when the team behind the LIGO observatory announced that they’d confirmed the existence of gravitational waves? Well, this is just a little catch-up on that story. This week marks the third detection of the phenomenon so far, with the second back in June of last year. The waves, which are actual ripples in the fabric of spacetime itself, were in these cases caused by the collision and merger of black holes. And just to be clear, these are black holes of sizes we couldn’t actually be sure existed before. We now know that there are black holes with masses of 21, 49, and 62 times that of the sun. If they weren’t out there running into each other (billions of years ago) we wouldn’t be able to tell. This is also the furthest detection yet, taking place 3 billion lightyears away (and 3 billion years ago), telling us more about just when black holes of these sizes existed. The previous detections were at 1.3 and 1.4 billion lightyears away. And these are still the early days. New observatories are coming online soon that should help better pinpoint the locations of signals, and teach us all sort of new things about the universe. You can read more about the discovery over at


Best of the Rest

And because there’s always so much more to cover than I have time for, here it is, your weekly linkspam:

That’s all for today, have a great week.


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.