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Invention Secrecy Still Going Strong

From: Ray Dickenson <r.dickenson.nul>
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 2010 03:11:28 +0100
Archived: Fri, 22 Oct 2010 06:06:22 -0400
Subject: Invention Secrecy Still Going Strong


Source: FAS Project on Government Secrecy


October 21st, 2010

Invention Secrecy Still Going Strong

There were 5,135 inventions that were under secrecy orders at
the end of Fiscal Year 2010, the U.S. Patent and Trademark
Office told Secrecy News last week. It's a 1% rise over the
year before, and the highest total in more than a decade.

Under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951, patent applications on
new inventions can be subject to secrecy orders restricting
their publication if government agencies believe that disclosure
would be "detrimental to the national security."

The current list of technology areas that is used to screen
patent applications for possible restriction under the Invention
Secrecy Act is not publicly available and has been denied under
the Freedom of Information Act. (An appeal is pending.) But a
previous list dated 1971 and obtained by researcher Michael
Ravnitzky is available here (pdf).

Most of the listed technology areas are closely related to
military applications. But some of them range more widely.

Thus, the 1971 list indicates that patents for solar
photovoltaic generators were subject to review and possible
restriction if the photovoltaics were more than 20% efficient.
Energy conversion systems were likewise subject to review and
possible restriction if they offered conversion efficiencies "in
excess of 70-80%."

One may fairly ask if disclosure of such technologies could
really have been "detrimental to the national security," or
whether the opposite would be closer to the truth. One may
further ask what comparable advances in technology may be
subject to restriction and non-disclosure today. But no answers
are forthcoming, and the invention secrecy system persists with
no discernible external review.




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