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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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  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:18PM (#13893951)
    i wondered about this but never looked into it ..anyone know if they secretize a patent or something .. do they pay or commercial losses? It's reasonable that you are owed compensation for whatever legitimate commercial value the damn thing has (not just payment for the govt. to use it .. since well they can dictate the price since they are the only customer you can sell it to).
  • 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]
  • 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.
  • by schwit1 (797399) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @08:45PM (#13894064)
    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?
  • 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.

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

    by NoTheory (580275) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:13PM (#13894155)
    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 course assumes that the sorts of patents given to private individuals are on average similar to the stuff the NSA is trying to publish, which may be a safe thing to assume) If you're looking for an ulterior motive, it's really easy to build a case that the Bush admin is trying to give away the government to the rich & powerful.
  • Not really. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:15PM (#13894164) Journal
    NSA has always done a number of things in the open. Up till the iron curtain fell, the pentagon actually had a lot of power. After that, poppa bush and congress scaled back the military. Clinton decreased spying earlier on, but then increased them after a few years, but did not spend a whole lot extra on the military.

    Now, that the military is fighting a 2 front war (and looking at the very real possibility of a 3 front war in another year), they are getting a lot of power. More importantly, they are willing to use it.
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 27, 2005 @09:35PM (#13894243)
    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.

    Well, probably no more secrecy than Churchill's declaration that anyone caught revealing that England had a German Enigma machine would put to death.

  • 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.
  • by realbadjuju (870896) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @10:22PM (#13894429)
    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 destroying it.

    There's nothing that guarantees that someone else, or another branch of the government, won't come up with something that renders an NSA patent moot.

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

    by VP (32928) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @11:09PM (#13894560)
    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...
  • Re:win/win (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Brunellus (875635) on Thursday October 27, 2005 @11:37PM (#13894655) Homepage

    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.

  • by servognome (738846) on Friday October 28, 2005 @02:44AM (#13895066)
    Just to play devil's advocate, I see classifying everything more as a "cover your ass" type policy than some high level conspiracy against the US citizens.
    If information was released under the FOIA that is linked in an incident (eg terrorism) somebody will pay. Most people don't care about the FOIA, something doesn't get released, it's on 60 minutes for 15 minutes, and then people forget about it. One memo linked to an incident and there will be outrage for years about how the goverment failed to protect its people.

    Sadly, all but idealists would sacrifice liberty for security.
  • by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Friday October 28, 2005 @03:16AM (#13895155) 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

    It has happened [wired.com]
  • by hey! (33014) on Friday October 28, 2005 @06:42AM (#13895602) Homepage Journal
    Come 'on, cut any silly implications that government secrecy is somehow something new with the Bush administration.

    Perhaps you weren't paying attention, but up to September 11, 2001, the biggest Bush administration story was the unprecedented level of secrecy they demanded.

    Things that had heretofore been matters of public record or simply allowable to discuss had become privileged and confidential. Bush adminsitration secrecy hasn't changed at all post 9/11, except now they say it is becuase "the world has changed," and invoke national security instead of executive privilege. But before 9/11 they were very aggressive about executive privilege, in effect saying that the administration could not conduct its business with the public looking over its shoulder in certain situation, despite the fact that the past four or five administrations managed to do so.

    Just a month prior to 9/11, the top story was Cheney's drafting energy policy with his old business cronies and claiming it was a state secret. There were countless smaller stories about how data on government decision was drying up. Information on the composition of a group which advised the administration on stem cell research in April of that year was a closely guarded secret. Earlier that year, there were complaints that important parts of the Administration's trade policies were being kept secret.

    State secrets have always exist. Political discretion has always been wise. But this administration has always found the free flow of information to be intolerable.

  • by stanmann (602645) on Friday October 28, 2005 @08:23AM (#13895985) Journal
    It was no secret from anyone what Hitler was doing to any of the "Undesireables".
  • by servognome (738846) on Friday October 28, 2005 @10:29AM (#13896777)
    It's also no secret what is going on in Guantanimo, though without proof since everything is classified it's easy to for people to cover their ears and pretend everything is fine.
    That said, ultimately most people are more concerned with their day-to-day safety than the ideal of freedom. Those in public service know that they will be held more accountable for a failure of safety than by eroding freedoms. This isn't a recent thing, just look at the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2.
  • by stanmann (602645) on Friday October 28, 2005 @10:40AM (#13896875) Journal
    Nothing going on at Guantanimo, other than the information being extracted is classified. The Red Cross, NY Times and others make frequent visits to ensure the detainees are being treated appropriately.
  • by joaobranco (55662) on Friday October 28, 2005 @01:33PM (#13898540)
    Nothing going on at Guantanimo, other than the information being extracted is classified. The Red Cross, NY Times and others make frequent visits to ensure the detainees are being treated appropriately.

    Right... And they can go wherever they want there, and talk to whoever they want without US forces being present? Can they describe to all what they saw/talked about?

  • >People are so wrapped up in how Uncle Sam will protect us >from the terrorists that they forget to ask the question >that's much more important: Who will protect us from Uncle >Sam?

    That's why you have to vote for massive tax and program cuts. A small government is a powerless one. Get rid of the entitlements, the discretionary spending, and leave just a smaller military, and you won't have to fear government so much simply because it won't have money to act.
  • by hey! (33014) on Saturday October 29, 2005 @10:30AM (#13904653) Homepage Journal
    Hmmm, I seem to remember the biggest Bush administration story being about when our plane bumped into a Chinese plane and our men and woman were held hostage for a period of time. Maybe that was just "wag the dog" so we wouldn't notice all the secrecy stories, right? :)

    While that was a big story, it wasn't about the Bush adminsiration. It was a routine military and diplomatic mishap.

    Why should they be made public?

    Accountability. The administration itself put its finger on the reason in their excuse for why this should be a secret: people will be afraid give the same advice if it can be traced back to them. I agree, except that I also think the only reason to be ashamed of advice in a matter like this is that you don't want people to know you're advising your friends in government to do something that is more of a favor to you than anything else The norm in these matters was that who is at the meeting is a matter of record, as is the conclusions reached in the discussions. The forth and back, the hypothetical situations, in short all the details of the conversations weren't necessarily a matter of public record. This fully satisfisies all legitimate needs: the need of officials to have access to unfettered access to advice, the need of advisors to be able to do a little out of the box thinking without being held responsible for it; the need of the public to know that elected officials are working for them, or to challenge them if they think not.

    Again, who cares? He could listen to his mom, his brother, his daughter, or Jesus Christ. His policy proposal has to be made public before it's implemented. Why do you think you need to sit in on every conversation that helps the administration define a policy?

    Again because there is no legitimate reason to keep this secret. There's a difference between talkign to your friends and family and creating what amounts to a secret commision.

    Or are you again suggesting that we should have a right to sit in on every conversation that the administration has while it's coming up with its own coherent position on issues?

    No, I'm suggesting that we deserve to know the general trade aims (other than things like "prosperity"), and who the administration is talking to, not necessarily all the details of the conversation. We also need to know exactly which private parties have input into the policy so we know if any spoils are being divided.

    Perhaps you could offer more than two examples before jumping to the "countless" adjective?

    Well, you flunk on math at least. For more references I refer you to Altavista, which has a easier interface for this kind of research.

    Hillary Clinton's health care task force operated in virtual secrecy, too, and they were messing with an idea to socialize something like 20% of the American economy.

    Hardly. The process if anything was too open, and details of the partially completed plan were out so far in advance that the opponents could effectively ensure they were DOA while the proponents didn't have anything specific they could get behind. It is possible to build a complex process in private, while getting input from special interests in a transaprent way. It's when you mix these up that you get into trouble. When you let special interests write your policies, then the policy making and information gathering phases are collapsed, and you can't get input without making policy in public.

"Never ascribe to malice that which is caused by greed and ignorance." -- Cal Keegan

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