This post was originally published to Seyfarth’s Gadgets, Gigabytes & Goodwill Blog.
In a recent post, we discussed whether patent applications could provide insight into the blueprints of extraterrestrial spacecraft. Yet, an enigmatic question looms large: would the powers that be genuinely consider patenting such advanced technology, fully aware that patent applications might see the light of day? Or might there be a more clandestine approach, a proverbial cloak of invisibility wielded by the men in black?
Under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951, federal law prevents the disclosure of new technologies and inventions that may present a national security threat to the United States. Under this act, the Commissioner of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has the authority to highlight patent applications for scrutiny by U.S. defense departments (e.g., various three-letter and four-letter government agencies), ensuring certain innovations remain confidential. This veil of secrecy could extend to concepts and items conceived by individual civilians. Patents falling under such a secrecy directive are accessible to defense bodies, have export limitations, and are considered classified. Accordingly, the publication of such patent applications, or even the granting of a patent, could be delayed or altogether suppressed. These orders are in place to protect sensitive technologies from falling into the wrong hands. As of 2022, USPTO records show that there were 6,057 secrecy orders in effect. Continue Reading Cloaked in Secrecy: Can Secrecy Orders Shield Alien Innovations?