Can the Government Make You Keep Your Invention a Secret Without Compensating You?


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The government has suppressed many patents and other similar items in the name of national security, and this has created various problems for patent owners. However, knowing when the government is able to do so without compensating the owner is important, as there may be action that could be pursued when the process is not valid.

National security has been used as a means to shut thousands of patents down after the owner has created something new and revolutionary. The possible issues with United States security has been named the problem that must be dealt with when the patent is applied to the country for manufacture of products and the services some creations supply. While the patent owner may have these restrictions lifted, it may take years, and by then the commercial endeavor has been passed by without the opportunity to acquire revenue or manufacture the item for sale. It also usually requires a lawyer to assist with these situations which takes more time and money.

Secrecy orders are placed on patents when the Department of Defense has suspicion that a creation may inhibit or affect national security in some manner. This was the case in 2002 with developing cell phone technology for covert techniques in communications. After five years, it was too late for monetary opportunities. While the owner of the patent did not oppose this order, others face similar problems. However, many inventions are supported by research and the right to use technology along with government funding. Those that do not receive this may lead to financial ruin. It is crucial to hire a lawyer to ensure compensation is received.

The Problem with Stifled Inventions

While it is possible to petition to have an invention removed from the secrecy order, this may take years or additional filing and prompting. If the creation still has commercial value even years later, this is the best course of action for the inventor most often. However, if compensation is not possible, the owner of the patent is out the time and money he or she expended to obtain the patent. Congress has stated that some inventions must be hidden. This has been proven true by how well the consumer takes to new creations that may appear too science fiction or impractical. Sometimes, science and technology outstrip the ability to police what is purchased and used by the populace.

While stifling inventions may hinder national secrets from being disclosed, it also hinders the ability for the country to progress into the future. Some developments are possible to protect the country, to increase efficiency for various products and ideas already in use and others may permit inventors to build on each other to push society into the next age in communications, electronics and technology. Even if inventors are compensated for the stifling of patents, the cost to progress and scientific breakthroughs could cost the society more than it helps. It is important to contact a lawyer when the government may silence a patent for product manufacture or distribution.

Secret Inventions without Compensation

When the secrecy orders are issued against the invention, the patent is made useless until the order has been rescinded or removed through a court order. The federal government is under no obligation to compensate an inventor for his or her creation. However, some may attempt to sue the government for compensation or damages. It is then up to the court to determine if the case is valid and if anything should be provided to the owner of the patent. Unfortunately, if the court rules against the inventor, he or she may not be able to obtain the funds from possible commercialization of his or her invention until the secrecy order is removed. Any attempt to violate this could end with the inventor behind bars.

When a secrecy order has been issued for a patented creation, it is crucial to contact a lawyer immediately. It may be possible to have the order lifted in time to produce a revenue stream from the creation, or the inventor may convince the government into an exclusive contract to sell the invention. Through legal representation, if either the invention cannot be used or sold in any manner, the inventor may have a claim in the courts. The lawyer may assist in proving based on facts and evidence that the patent could only have been sold during the time the secrecy order was in effect.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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