Invention Secrecy Up Slightly in 2008

There were 5,023 invention secrecy orders in effect at the end of FY 2008, up slightly from last year’s total of 5,002.

Under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951, secrecy orders are applied by government agencies to patent applications that may be “detrimental to national security.”  The patent is withheld, and the invention described in the application is subject to various degrees of restriction, depending on its sensitivity, from export controls to national security classification.

Last year, 68 new secrecy orders were imposed, while 47 were rescinded, according to statistics released by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists.

The specific nature of the currently restricted inventions is, of course, not published.  But it is possible to get information about dozens of patent applications that were formerly subject to secrecy orders that were later rescinded.

A list of secrecy orders rescinded in 2005-2006 (pdf), by application number, was released in response to a FOIA request from researcher Michael Ravnitzky.

A description of each formerly restricted application can be found by searching the application number on the Patent Office web site.  Thus, the first invention on the list was described as a “rocket engine chamber with layered internal wall channels.”

No Responses to “Invention Secrecy Up Slightly in 2008”

  1. A. Scott Crawford November 28, 2008 at 12:50 AM #

    Ahhh, that good old Invention Secrecy Act of 1951! FAS readers will appreciate that when the DoD’s lead Physicist is an Asset of a hostile Countries intelligence apparatus, as was the case with the (capital) Bomb program that this Act was claimed to be required to safeguard, maintaining the secrecy merely serves to aid the spies, guilty agents, and incompetent military guardians who all allowed/conspired to swipe and exploit said ‘invention’, in preventing a full review to determine how deeply the program was compromised.

    Hopefully if by SOME MIRACLE the United States were again to find itself in possession of a truly paradigm altering Invention, Inventor, Physicist, or etc. it would reflect upon the lessons learned from the MISTAKES associated with the Manhattan Project (to name the obvious) BEFORE another generation of greedy procurement salesmen or gormless R&D jocks tried to apply the Invention Secrecy Act so quickly that they were unable to ACTUALLY SECURE the INDIVIDUAL responsible in the first place. This would be very embarrassing, as to claim a proprietary ownership of A CITIZEN, rather than A PATENTABLE PROCESS, is SLAVERY! LOL. Given the nature of the incoming administration, attempts to achieve this EFFECT under a different name aren’t very likely to be successful (which no doubt occured to the CJCS when he canned a recent DARPA funding request). Still, were such a ‘hypothetical’ case to occur, the irony would be rich indeed for those hundreds if not thousands of physicists, engineers, and etc. who themselves had NOT escaped the Invention Secrecy Act waiver Catch 22, and thus lost authority over their own intellectual property.

    In my own personal opinion, the current Supreme Court would not accept the legal reasoning of 1951 today, and would require the U.S. military demonstrate it was not abusing the Act to contravene the Constitution the brass has, to a man, sworn an oath to ‘protect and uphold’. And were THIS to occur, the brass would be forced to look at the practices of it’s civilian deputies and procurement corporate partners with much greater care… but then again, what do I KNOW anyway?!


    Alexander Scott Crawford