An odd statement of government interest in a Navy “UFO” patent

Here’s US patent 10322827. One of the “UFO” patents. It’s interesting physics, if not controversial, for being innovative in an institutional world that has made innovation mostly boring.

But we are concerned with something else here.


As you can see, the assignee is the US government represented by the Navy. Skip down a bit and we get the following notice:

This statement is just strange. The government owns the invention and has issued the patent to itself (despite the quiet objections, apparently well founded, of the inventor–another story). The government holds the patent rights. Why then is there any statement of government interest? The government’s interest is identified on the face of the patent–the government holds the patent. The government has the right–under Bayh-Dole, at least until Bayh-Dole is declared unconstitutional–to sue anyone for practicing the invention.

But here we have a statement of government interest that goes entirely the wrong way. The claimed invention may not be practiced by anyone without the approval of the US Navy. That’s what a patent means. It’s also the case that the government cannot manufacture or use an invention–any invention–but for government purposes. If it’s not a government purpose, then the government has no authority to be doing it–right? Anything the government does do, don’t you think, ends up as a government purpose?

As for the government, it may practice this invention it owns without paying royalties to itself, but whether the government may “manufacture and use” the invention without paying royalties to someone else for the rights that someone might hold is an entirely different matter. If this claimed invention is within the scope of the claims of other patents, then it may be impossible to practice this invention without infringing those other claims.

Further, while this invention establishes a schematic idea about how to generate gravitational waves using a gas-filled shell and two vibrating, counter-rotating sound generators, there appears to be plenty of inventive work to build out the invention for any particular application. If anyone else gets there first, getting its own patents, those patents could also stand in the way of the government’s manufacturing and using its invention without paying royalties as established by the Court of Federal Claims under 28 USC 1498.

There’s no need for the statement of government interest in a patent held by the government. There’s certainly no need for a statement that’s just wrong. Perhaps there would be room for a statement of the public’s interest–perhaps a public license, so that any US person is hereby granting a royalty-free non-exclusive license to practice and have practiced the claimed invention, but only if they don’t use the patent system to sue anyone else (including the US government) for practicing the invention. That would be nice. But clearly that’s not what is going on.

What’s odd is if this invention were really revolutionary in terms of its capability to generate really interesting gravitational waves–and perhaps it is!–why wouldn’t the Navy classify the technology and put the patent under a secrecy order? For instance, a “craft using an inertial mass reduction device.” Instead, the Navy has published the invention in the patent literature with a goofball statement of its own interest in the invention. Why?

Oh, wait. Maybe the Navy has put some of Pais inventive work under a secrecy order. We would never know, would we? Whoo.

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