Patent office seeking comments regarding extra secrecy for certain applications

National security is a priority that has waxed and waned throughout time. When our country is at war, for example, we are willing to make concessions in the name of national security. But during peacetime, we view it as less of a priority.

Recently, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced that it would seek comments on the idea of putting a secrecy order on “economically significant” patent applications in the interest of national security. This may matter to South Florida inventors more than you might think at first; sure, we do not have many munitions makers here, but depending on how “national security” is interpreted, a wide variety of patents might be considered “economically significant.”

Apparently, the concern here is that there is too much lag time between when a patent application is filed and when a patent is granted (or denied). That window allows “foreign entities” to exploit the material seeking to be patented and then access markets before the U.S. company can have a go at them.

This has an impact on national security in two different ways. First, there is some concern that the existing patent process provides too much access to designs and plans before they are legally protected. Second, there is also the worry that we are undermining our competitive advantage by not acting more quickly to head off overseas competitors.

Keeping in mind that patents already afford legal protection and that some people feel those protections are too strong, does this seem like a good idea to you?

Source: Bloomberg, “Comments Sought on ‘Economically Significant’ Inventions Secrecy,” Victoria Slind-Flor, April 24, 2012