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U.S. patent law Edit
Pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 181-88, the U.S. Patent Commissioner has the right to issue patent secrecy orders to prevent disclosure of information about an invention if disclosure by granting of a patent would be detrimental to the national security. This provision is applicable to a patent for which the “government has a property interest” and those privately developed inventions which the government does not own. Thus, if a federal government agency has a “property interest” in the invention, the agency head will notify the Patent Commissioner, who is to withhold the publication of the application or the granting of a patent. If the government does not have a property interest in the patent and the Patent Commissioner decides that the granting of a patent or publication of an application would be detrimental to the national security, the Patent Commissioner is required to provide the patent application in question for inspection to the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Secretary of Energy), the Secretary of Defense, or the heads of other relevant agencies. If the agency head determines that publication or disclosure by the grant of patent is detrimental to the national security, the Patent Commissioner shall order that the invention be kept secret, and “shall withhold the grant of a patent . . . for such period as the national interest requires. . . .” The owner of the application may appeal the decision to the Secretary of Commerce. The invention may be kept secret for one year, but the Secretary of Commerce may renew the secrecy order for additional periods as instructed by the agency head who initially determined the need for secrecy.
If a secrecy order is issued during time of war, it shall remain in effect for the duration of hostilities and for one year following cessation of hostilities. If a secrecy order is issued during a national emergency, it shall remain in effect for the duration of the emergency and six months thereafter. The order may be rescinded by the Patent Commissioner upon written notification of the agency head who requested the order.
In addition, to prevent circumventing the law, a license must be obtained from the Patent Commissioner before a U.S. inventor files for a foreign patent application or registers a design or model with a foreign patent office. Penalties for violation of the law include a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than two years, or both.
- ↑ 35 U.S.C. §§181-88.