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Patents United States Censorship Your Rights Online

Patents vs. Secrecy 219

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the need-to-know-basis dept.
giampy writes "New Scientist is reporting that the NSA appears to be having its patent applications increasingly blocked by the Pentagon. From the article: 'the fact that the Pentagon is classifying things that the NSA believes should be public is an indication of how much secrecy has crept into government over the past few years.'"
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Patents vs. Secrecy

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    • Unfortunately there are these little things like ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) and Export Control restrictions. Whereby, no matter how innocent the action may be, if they can trace the source of controlled information back to you, they'll fine the hell out of ya and throw you in jail. Although, I guess if you publish anonymously, you could try to skirt that.

      People sometimes think these restrictions only apply if you cross borders. But even if you are in the USA, if you talk about restrict
  • win/win (Score:5, Funny)

    by tooba (710518) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:10PM (#13893914)
    Does this mean that there are a bunch of secret ideas out there that I can patent for my own personal profit? Score!
    • Re:win/win (Score:4, Informative)

      by mfago (514801) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:18PM (#13893949)
      Try to patent something that the government thinks should be (or is) secret and suddenly you'll find you no longer have any rights to it. Not sure if they are required to pay you, although Feynman eventually did manage to get $1 for the idea of a nuclear submarine...
      • Re:win/win (Score:5, Interesting)

        by David Gould (4938) <david@dgould.org> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:22PM (#13894192) Homepage

          although Feynman eventually did manage to get $1 for the idea of a nuclear submarine...

        Heh. Though of course, while you could call that story an example of an inventor being screwed out of his IP rights by the government, I'd say it's more an example of patents being granted frivolously.

        As I recall, the way he told it was that, after the Manhattan Project was done, Feynman was asked if he could think of any other (i.e., non-bomb) applications for atomic energy. He replied by listing, off the top of his head, a bunch of "things that use energy". He later found that he'd been granted, for each $X in his list, a patent on "an atomic-powered $X".

        Kinda puts "1-click shopping" to shame, huh? In a way, it's heartening -- at least the USPTO's willingness to grant patents on vague ideas, without even requiring them to have been implemented first, is nothing new.
        • Re:win/win (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Brunellus (875635)

          A patent's claims may be rejected as "unspecific" under the first paragraph of 35 USC Sec. 112.

          It is not as easy to get a patent as many people here on /. seem to think.

          • "Ought" vs "Is" (Score:5, Insightful)

            by CustomDesigned (250089) on Friday October 28, 2005 @03:40AM (#13895223) Homepage Journal
            The "people on /." (and Groklaw.net) know that you are not *supposed* to get patents on ideas. It is the fact that such patents are regularly granted despite such paragraphs as you quote that has us in an uproar. And we complain that it is *technically* (in the non-legal sense) "easy" to get a patent - not that it is "easy" in the sense of the expense or legal technicalities involved. So saying, "just patent your own inventions if you're so smart" is not a valid argument for ordinary people without $10000 to blow on every software invention (even the real inventions as opposed to obvious stuff).

            Notice that if I'm going to be investing $50000 in parts and equipment (say because I've just figured out to make a Farnsworth generator actually produce power), another $10000 for a patent makes a lot more sense. It is software patents that have such a ridiculous discrepancy between the cost of invention and the cost of a patent. That is why "people on /." (and Groklaw.net) are against *software* patents, not patents in general.

            It is also software patents for which the Patent Office seems to have the most trouble distinguishing real inventions from the trivial. But even if that problem (USPTO ignorance of software technology) is fixed, there is simply no need for patent protection of software, because there is no hard cost of invention. It "only" costs time to write and debug code - and that debugged and working code is already protected by copyright. Software patents are purely a tool of oppression.

      • ..patenting the ideas in the rest of the world.
    • They let stuff out on the net like this:

      http://www.hedfud.com/media/albums/videos02/mobile _laser.wmv [hedfud.com]

      Direct link to WMV file of a military film introducing an operational high power laser. They show it taking out shells and rockets in midair. Some lousy special effects, but educational.

      So what stuff are they keeping secret?

    • RSA and GCHQ (Score:2, Informative)

      by Flying pig (925874)
      I think it's well known that a GCHQ scientist (with the unfortunate name of Cocks) came up with the public/private key idea before Rivest,Shamir and Adelmann. British security predictably sat on it, with the result it was patented in the US and the UK lost the benefits of yet another bit of fundamental research.

      However, given the prevailing attitudes in the English speaking world, I suggest you patent your ideas in the non-UK EU. Luxembourg?

  • Geritol. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:11PM (#13893921)
    "From the article: 'the fact that the Pentagon is classifying things that the NSA believes should be public is an indication of how much secrecy has crept into government over the past few years.'""

    Now there's a double helping of Irony.

    The pentagon is more paranoid than the NSA.

    Plus it was the NSA that was paranoid back during the RSA era.
    • Re:Geritol. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:41PM (#13894048) Homepage Journal
      I suspect it's the sign of a culture clash as much as anything. Below the top level of bureaucracy, the NSA employs a lot of very smart people -- and not just smart, but creative and curious people as well, many of them mathematicians and computer scientists engaged in pure research. (One of my math professors, an absolutely brilliant guy and a great teacher, was hired away by them to work on Some Project for Some Amount Of Money That Was Unspecified, But Was Much More Than He Was Making Teaching College. I was happy for him, but sad that I wouldn't be able to take any more classes from him.) Even if they work for "No Such Agency," they're basically long-haired hippies who want to share their work with, like, the human race, man. And of course the Pentagon is ... well, it's the Pentagon. No hippies allowed. It's like the standard IT-guys-vs.-suits conflict that's played out in the corporate world all the time, but with much higher stakes.

      To boil it down to /. terms: the Pentagon loves Microsoft, the NSA released its own Linux distro. You figure it out.
      • The NSA has not released a distro. Just patches, library code and userland tools to implement SELinux. Most of it is now in 2.6 kernel. But the NSA never put together a complete distro.

        As to the the Pentagon being pro-MS, well, lets just say that the NSA is pro-freedom.

    • Re:Geritol. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NoTheory (580275)
      No, one could make a case that this is directly in line with the rest of the Grover Norquist school of thought.

      From the article:
      However, at another level, the Pentagon appears to be relaxing slightly: it seems to be loosening its post 9/11 grip on the ideas of private inventors, with the number having patents barred on the grounds of national security halving in the last year.

      The Pentagon is blocking patents from the government, but allowing patents to private inventors... i.e. corporations. (this of
    • Re:Geritol. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by VP (32928)
      The pentagon is more paranoid than the NSA.

      I am wondering if this is indeed related to secrecy, or if it has more practical (read "monetary") implications. If a patent is granted, do you want Halluburton (as the default DoD contractor) to pay a license fee? Or do you just give them the information to use as they see fit (and probably charge the governament for R&D in the process)?

      Never underestimate the corruption of the political elite...
  • Compensation? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Karma_fucker_sucker (898393) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:14PM (#13893932)
    From TFA: So there are now 4915 secrecy orders in effect - some of which have been in effect since the 1930s.

    If the Pentagon makes your patent secret, will they compensate you? I know that's a hard call as far as value is concerned. But let's say you're in negotiations with some company. You're coming to an amount of $5 million. Will the Pentagon send you a check for $5 million. Will they compensate the company in negations with you too? Or will they just say "Eminent Domain" and just take the thing and if you object, put you in jail?

    What would happen if you just said "Fuck you!" and release it on the Net - jail you? The cat's already out of the bag.

    • Re:Compensation? (Score:3, Informative)

      by xiphoris (839465)
      Or will they just say "Eminent Domain" and just take the thing

      The principle of eminent domain does not allow the government to just "take" things. Eminent domain [wikipedia.org] requires that the government compensate you a fair market value [wikipedia.org].

      Of course, that says nothing about other methods they have of preventing you from releasing your invention (national security?) or who decides what "fair market value" is.
      • Re:Compensation? (Score:5, Informative)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:06PM (#13894130)
        Not at all. This has nothing to do with eminent domain, this has to do with military secrets, and how the ability to peg something as "classified" results in the effective theft of intellectual property.

        Back in the sixties, a company my father started did a lot of government contract electronics design and manufacturing, mostly for the Navy (some Air Force.) Some of his designs were parsecs beyond what the Navy was currently using at the time, so good that the Navy simply classified them outright. Okay, that's a compliment in a way, but it meant that he couldn't tell anyone about his concepts, couldn't use them for anything himself, and couldn't market any products made with them unless the government chose to buy them from him. Which they didn't, because after stealing his IP they simply shopped it around to other vendors to get a better deal (or to somebody's brother-in-law, whatever.) After that experience, he learned to withhold key parts of specifications so even if they classified what he gave them it wouldn't do them any good. He pissed off more than a few Navy engineers that way, but his attitude was simple: if it's good enough for the Navy to steal it's good enough for them to pay the inventor a fair price.

        This all happened was forty years ago, and given the turn our society and our government has taken since, I can't believe the situation has improved any. Really, working for the military is a risky business for any private-sector operation, no matter how you slice it. Money to be made, sure, but you gotta be careful.
    • If the Pentagon makes your patent secret, will they compensate you? I know that's a hard call as far as value is concerned. But let's say you're in negotiations with some company. You're coming to an amount of $5 million. Will the Pentagon send you a check for $5 million. Will they compensate the company in negations with you too? Or will they just say "Eminent Domain" and just take the thing and if you object, put you in jail? Im fairly certain that it's not anyone's intellectual property but the United S

    • No necessarily. On Slashdot a few weeks ago they were talking about how a big patent was taken by the DoD and they got NO money for it.
    • Heh, no, they'd have you killed. Its called treason.
    • What would happen if you just said "Fuck you!" and release it on the Net - jail you? The cat's already out of the bag.

      The can may be out of the bag, but don't think they wont try and make an example out of you. You're likely to end up in jail, then bankrupted from legal expenses, and a convicted felon when you get out.

      The government has locked people in prison for months, untill they finished their investigation, because they "think" they "mishandled" classified information.

    • Never mess with the guys that can answer the question: "You and what army?".

      US Military: "We don't want you to release that information."

      You: "Oh yeah who is going to make me? You and what army?"

      US Military: "Well......."

    • What would happen if you just said "Fuck you!" and release it on the Net - jail you? The cat's already out of the bag.

      Of course they'd jail you, that's generally what happens when you break a law and the crime is serious enough to warrant jail time. It's exceedingly rare that people are jailed before committing a crime...
  • by Xabraxas (654195) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:17PM (#13893942)
    ...to make the judgement that the government is becoming more secretive. The article states that in each of the three years prior the Pentagon has blocked 4, 5, and 9 patents submitted by the NSA. Three years of evidence is hardly enough to go by. There may be a perfectly good reason as to why more patents were blocked this year. With such a small number of patents denied it is possible that the NSA applied for more patents and the percentage of patents blocked is actually less than previous years. It is also possible that The NSA developed more inventions this year that could be deemed sensitive information. I would like to know how many patents submitted by the NSA have been blocked by the pentagon in the past 50-60 years and what percentage of patent applications have been blocked each year. That information would be much more useful. Move on, nothing to see here.
    • by Zordak (123132) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @11:25PM (#13894618) Homepage Journal
      Man, it happens every time. There always has to be some killjoy who comes along spouting "reason" and "thiking" and raining all over the parade. The proper response here is to jump to some result-oriented conclusions and indulge in some good old-fashioned reactionary government bashing. Next you're going to start blaspheming and say there might even be a legitimate security-related reason for keeping those patents secret. I mean, what are you, some paid Bush administration shill? Next time, please try to post a little before you think.
    • by FellowConspirator (882908) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @11:41PM (#13894663)
      FWIW, in 2004 the GAO cited a 95% increase in the number of government documents classfied as secret compared to the preceding 5 years. The same report also cites unprecedented levels of the executive branch refusing to provide requested documentation to congress and to withold information from the GAO itself including hundreds of instances of refusing to provide requested documents to the 9-11 commission including copies of presidential briefings on the subject.

      The rate of FOIA challenges and denials has also skyrocketed.

      Hmmm... Government getting more secret, AG writing memos about how torture is justifiable, enacting laws that permit indefinite incarceration without being charged, end to judicial oversight of wire-taps, congress considering a shield law for that would make it so only certain people can report government wrongdoing without threat of legal action... At this rate, how long will it be before the bill of rights falls into desuetude?
      • cites unprecedented levels of the executive branch refusing to provide requested documentation to congress ... refusing to provide requested documents to the 9-11 commission

        Now was the 9-11 commission from the Judical branch? If so my rather limited understanding of the US democratic system is completely wrong - I thought the three branches each had reasonable levels of power and could get the others to at least answer questions. "No one is above or below the law" was a quote from a former leader of the e

    • From TFA itself:

      "However, at another level, the Pentagon appears to be relaxing slightly: it seems to be loosening its post 9/11 grip on the ideas of private inventors, with the number having patents barred on the grounds of national security halving in the last year.

      In the financial year to 2004, DTSA imposed 61 secrecy orders on private inventors, a number that had been climbing inexorably since 9/11. But up to the end of financial 2005, only 32 inventors had "secrecy orders" imposed on their inventions."
  • I dunno... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by susano_otter (123650) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:19PM (#13893954) Homepage
    Seems to me more like an indication of how much secure cryptography has gained value as a tool of war.

    I suspect that the Pentagon is more concerned with preserving an edge in weapons technology, than with secrecy-as-secrecy.

    The secrecy thing is just a side effect of wanting the edge.
  • Secrecy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mister_llah (891540) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:20PM (#13893962) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, the fact we know there ARE secrets is progress from the Cold War, in my opinion.

    ===

    Having done a smidge of work for the government, I'm happier with secrets "just in case" than creating holes that might not have to have been made.

    Does this mean that what is being kept secret *needs* to be? Not always... but it is better safe than sorry.

    [obviously there are extremes, making an office supply order confidential for example, but patents are understandable]
    • Re:Secrecy (Score:5, Informative)

      by geomon (78680) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:34PM (#13894027) Homepage Journal
      Having done a smidge of work for the government, I'm happier with secrets "just in case" than creating holes that might not have to have been made.

      I'm sorry, but this attitude just smacks of laziness on the part of a classification clerk. When I worked at Department of Energy sites I was amused to discover that groundwater well construction documents known as 'as-builts' were classified during the Cold War. We had to send over a guy with a clearence to review the well log and report back to the classification clerk that no national security information would be disclosed by declassifying the record. At one site the DOE was custodian to over 4,000 wells, of which 90% of the records were classified. Every hour spent by a PhD geologist reviewing well records cost the government real money. This laziness in applying a classified status to well records cost the taxpayers millions of dollars throughout the DOE complex without advancing national security one iota. Countless other examples of construction records for other non-proliferation items were also classified.

      Perhaps you like throwing money away for useless 'feel good' measures, but I don't.
      • You are right, it does cost money. There are certain things which are wasteful to make secret.

        I don't feel that patents are one of them.

        ===

        Of course, that assumes that putting the patent out there will drum up problems, who knows if it does.

        By the same reasoning, though, let us use the analogy of a plane. You go up in a plane, it is nice to have the parachute with you, even if you are never going to use it.

        Patents aren't "wasteful" secrets. It's not clerical laziness. I don't feel that it is a waste of mone
        • I'd like to hear why, on patents specifically, you feel it would be wasteful, however... (since that is the issue at hand)

          No, patents were the issue of the article and the submission. You generalized the topic with the statement "Having done a smidge of work for the government, I'm happier with secrets "just in case" than creating holes that might not have to have been made." but, to be fair, you did qualify your statement by citing examples of poor classification candidates.

          My point was that I prefer an op
    • Re:Secrecy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SillyNickName4me (760022) <dotslash@bartsplace.net> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @10:20PM (#13894417) Homepage
      Does this mean that what is being kept secret *needs* to be? Not always... but it is better safe than sorry.

      The USA has a supposedly democratically elected government.

      Virtually everything that government tries to keep secret somewhat undermines the ability of the people of the USA to judge what their government is doing with their money, and hence undermines their ability to make a good choice on whom to vote for next time.

      So, keeping secrets undermines democracy, which to me means that while you need them in specific cases, it is a very good idea to limit that to situations where it is really really needed.

      The 'better be safe then sorry' should be applied to this in an entirely different way then you did, better be safe and not undermine the voters then be sorry that you lost democracy.

  • by GabrielF (636907) <GJFishman@@@comcast...net> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:20PM (#13893963)
    The brief description of this article on slashdot as well as the article itself are a bit alarmist. The article does say that the number of secrecy orders on NSA patents has increased (nine in '05, as opposed to five in '04 and none in the previous three years), but the number of secrecy orders on private inventors has been cut nearly in half, from 61 to 32. This indicates that in some ways the USPTO is being less secretive, not more. It is possible that the small change in NSA patents is due to a different bureaucratic mechanism for screening patents, perhaps the NSA itself has gotten less stringent so the USPTO and the Pentagon have had to become more sensitive in order to compromise, and it is even possible that the change is statistically meaningless due to the small sample size, but it is harder to account for the larger drop (numerically) in the secrecy of the patents of private inventors.
    • Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that we now have to submit papers that "might" be considered important for national security. Thus if the government already knows about the work being done in sensitive areas they can contact the researchers directly before they apply for patents.
  • by Bemmu (42122) <[lomise] [at] [uta.fi]> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:24PM (#13893985) Homepage Journal
    Quite interesting what kind of patents they have for example "US05224756 Integrated child seat for vehicle". I bet James Bond never had that one! Full list of patents: http://cryptome.org/nsa-patents.htm [cryptome.org]
    • Oh no - we're all screwed...

      "US04375625 Method and apparatus for penetrating tin-foil hats"
    • by Kadin2048 (468275) <[slashdot.kadin] [at] [xoxy.net]> on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:14PM (#13894159) Homepage Journal
      Thanks for that link, there's some pretty cool stuff on there.

      I went to the uspto.gov site and looked up a few of them (in particular "rocess of preventing visual access to a semiconductor device by applying an opaque ceramic coating to integrated circuit devices," No. 5,258,334) and the assignee is listed as "The U.S. Government as represented by the Director, National Security."

      I wonder if this means that the patented idea is essentially public domain? Other creative works which are products of the Government are automatically public domain in terms of copyright, so is the right to use an idea as well? Or if you want to use one, do you have to go to the NSD and ask for permission / licensing? And if the latter, what do they charge, and who gets the money?

      I suspect, judging just by the problems and obvious conflicts-of-interest that you'd get if licensing was required, that they are free to use, in which case having the NSA patent something is much like having one of the Linux associations trademark something; they're never going to actually profit from it, but it potentially prevents someone else from doing so unfairly. And I suspect it also looks really good on the NSA's researchers' resumes and improves morale.
      • I wonder if this means that the patented idea is essentially public domain? Other creative works which are products of the Government are automatically public domain in terms of copyright, so is the right to use an idea as well? Or if you want to use one, do you have to go to the NSD and ask for permission / licensing? And if the latter, what do they charge, and who gets the money?

        The patents are NOT public domain. They are licensed out to companies. The money is then (i'm pretty sure) put into the gen
      • Process of preventing visual access to a semiconductor device by applying an opaque ceramic coating to integrated circuit devices," No. 5,258,334

        Oh, the delicious irony. The patent "Scanning confocal electron microscope, No. 6,548,810" is assigned to Nestor Zaluzec and Argonne National Lab.

        It was developed specifically as an easy [easier than super high energy xrays, the kind you need a linear accelerator for. Note IANAP, I am not a physicist.] way to look at the structure of a circuit without destroyi

    • Curious, I fired up my patent downloader (one of my first Cocoa projects, btw) and examined the tiffs. The last page reads:

      UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE
      CERTIFICATE OF CORRECTION
      PATENT NO: 5,224,756
      INVENTOR(S): Matthew Dukatz et al.

      It is certified that error appears in the above-identified patent and that said Letters Patent is hereby corrected as shown below:

      On the title page: Item

      [73] The assignee should read Chrysler Corporation, Highland Park, Michigan; Atoma International Inc., Newmarket, On

  • by mikael (484) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:41PM (#13894052)
    The war on pigeon doo-doo [scotsman.com]

    Two and a half months after a Freedom of Information request was filed, a 376 document was produced, but with 149 pages completedly blacked out and 102 pages partially blacked out.
  • If you think your patent will get narfled by the US government what stops you from patenting it overseas first so the cats out of the bag?
    • If you think your patent will get narfled by the US government what stops you from patenting it overseas first so the cats out of the bag?

      Well, if you live in the US (especially if you work for the NSA) the answer is this: you won't be enjoying any of the profits from those overseas patents while you're sitting in Leavenworth.
  • George W. Bush is secretly patented for breakthroughs in stupidity and frequent mispronunciation of the word nuclear.
  • by rindeee (530084) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:01PM (#13894117)
    I don't get the tone of this headline, that if the Fed has a secret, it must be a bad thing. How would you propose the Gov't protect the country in the absence of secrecy. Full disclosure? A grand idea that has never worked (of course in a sense secrecy hasn't worked either, as all societies in the past have fallen). The fact of the matter is that secrets are not only normal, they are a requirement for survival. We all practice a level of secrecy even in our lives; at work, in relationships, etc. and we use them to protect ourselves (psychologically and emotionally mostly I'd presume). Companies exercise extreme measures to protect trade secrets. Pitchers and catchers use "secret" codes to communicate so as not to divulge their plans to the batter. The NSA is not a den of evildoers. They're a good bunch of folks, no different than you and I save for the fact that they're willing to work for a lot less money because they feel it's for the greater good. I'd venture to guess that greater than 50% of NSA employees are /.'ers, albeit not the most vocal of the bunch. ;) The military/intel communities have abused power at times, but that is not the norm. Blah blah blah...I'll shut up now, I'm boring even my self.
  • by Guppy06 (410832) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:07PM (#13894133)
    Along with their more famously sneaky missions, part of what the NSA is tasked to do is help ensure the crypto/cybersecurity of the people of the United States. The DoD is probably trying to block the NSA because of fears of what the NSA may release to aid the United States would also aid our enemies, since it's supposed to be their job to marginalize and/or eliminate those enemies.

    Personally, I think the Department of Defense should remember why the word "defense" is in their name to begin with, and not just some sort of Orwellian "Minipax" ploy. The priority here should be defending the United States, not necessarily attacking our enemies. The best defense may be a good offense, but it isn't the only defense.

  • by cgenman (325138) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:12PM (#13894148) Homepage
    That's the part that doesn't make any sense. It's paid for by taxpayer dollars (which includes the better-behaved of companies out there), so why would the NSA try to patent them? As a source of funding? As leverage in cross-licensing agreements?

    Why does the government do this?

    • That's the part that doesn't make any sense. It's paid for by taxpayer dollars (which includes the better-behaved of companies out there), so why would the NSA try to patent them? As a source of funding? As leverage in cross-licensing agreements? Why does the government do this?

      To recoup money from it's investment. The feds spend millions and in some cases billions developing technology. Why should businesses get that research for free? They license out the patents and put the money back into the gen
  • by YouHaveSnail (202852) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:50PM (#13894303)
    For me, the big surprise here is that the NSA, an agency of the federal government, can apply for a patent in the first place. How does that work, exactly, when the NSA actually gets a patent? Since it's funded by tax dollars, can anyone use the invention? Do we need to apply for a license to use the invention? Is there a licensing fee? If so, where does that money go? Government agencies are neither people nor corporations, so do they have some sort of legal status that allows them to own things like patents? Could the FDA or the NIH start patenting drugs? Could the House of Representatives patent some novel method of voting and prevent the Senate from using it?

    Perhaps they're trying to patent ideas in order to make them public and prevent anyone else from obtaining a patent on the same idea, and we're all free to use the idea. But then why not just publish the idea and make sure that the USPTO is aware of it?
  • by vonkohorn (688787) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:53PM (#13894312) Homepage
    Patenting is an exchange: the government gives you exclusive rights to control the innovation for a period of time in exchange for your making it public. The idea of classifying any patent breaks the system. That's why there are both patents and trade secrets. Public access is such an integral part of the patent system that we should all take very seriously any attempt to allow any patents or patent applications to be classified.
    • That side of the system has mostly broken down a long time ago - the patents are not written in a form that's useful for research, so nobody use it to find out what to do.

      Or at least nobody I've been able to find. I've talked about this to people the do research (including taking out patents) in computer software, in food process engineering, and for physical engineering for consumer devices. All find the patent database basically useless except for finding out if something they know how to do anyway is p
  • I am a touch confused here. I was under the impression that State and Fedral bodies could not file patents? Did something change or am I missing something.
  • by isotope23 (210590) on Friday October 28, 2005 @12:23AM (#13894759) Homepage Journal
    From the article, it seems even private patents can be claimed under national security. I would assume with anything so claimed the inventor is basically screwed.

    So here is the hypothetical question, suppose I invented a new method to decrypt information VERY fast (i.e polynomial time). If I did not apply for a patent here, but either patented it in europe, or just published it, would that be illegal?

    As far as I can tell there are no requirements that you must try to patent an invention, nor any requirement that a u.s. inventor patent an invention in the US first.

    Thoughts?

    • I think that they can only classify things if the federal government pays for it. If I'm wrong, and you manage to factor big numbers quickly, I suggest you do three things: - Immediately get it on the Internet as fast as you can. Make sure Slashdot sees it, especially. Place a notice that patent rights are reserved. - Arrange to have it published somewhere, preferably by a lesser-known journal that would be less inclined to listen to the Feds. You have 1 year to do this under American law. If the Feds
    • From the article, it seems even private patents can be claimed under national security. I would assume with anything so claimed the inventor is basically screwed

      It has happened [wired.com]

    • "So here is the hypothetical question, suppose I invented a new method to decrypt information VERY fast (i.e polynomial time). If I did not apply for a patent here, but either patented it in europe, or just published it, would that be illegal?"

      Release the information anonymously, and enjoy being the catalyst that begins the post-crypto world.

      If you came up with such a discovery, would you *really* let any government have it?
  • 1. What if the invention you worked so hard on and try to patent was classified when someone else tried to patent it. You obviously could not do a patent search. Do you just lose all your time and money.
    2. What if you did not patent an invention that was previously patented and classified and start selling a product based on it. Again there is no way you could have known ahead of time the idea was patented.
    3. What if the invention you tried to patent gets classified only to discover later that another compa
  • So What (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gone.fishing (213219) on Friday October 28, 2005 @08:04AM (#13895887) Journal
    People: You can argue all you want if a government agency can obtain a patent or why one branch can over-rule another branch on a security issue. On the face of it your arguments have logic and many of them seem well-reasoned.

    But we are dealing with the government, the U.S. government. While we (the citizens of the U.S.) have many rights (like the freedom of speech) we no longer have control of our government. It will do what it damned well wants to. It has been that way since WWII with only a couple of notable exceptions. The truth is they will spend what they need to in order to accomplish what they want. Their lawyers will obstruficate enough laws and outspend anyone who tries to get in their way ten to one, making it impossible for even the wealthiest people or corporations to be little more then a speed-bump on the agenda.

    I'm not anti-government. We need government and we need the laws that protect us. But face it, what we have created is something that lives and operates behind closed doors and establishes its own rules. Nothing, or nobody is big enough to change it. That hardly means don't try. As citizens we need to demand accountability because it is we who they represent. The article was good from that standpoint. It uses our freedom to challenge the government to explain itself. Unfortunately, we already know the answer will be a stoney wall of silence.

Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

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