Is The US Navy Using Patents To Shake Down Companies?

from the something-doesn't-seem-right-here dept

The latest example of how problematic our patent system has become, involves a series of patent infringement lawsuits against a bunch of banks based on a patent that is the property of the US Navy. It turns out that the Navy licensed the patent out to a small company in exchange for 30% of any profits from any patent licensing or litigation. It certainly looks like the Navy is encouraging questionable patent lawsuits. The Navy gets a patent for security authentication, using taxpayer money, and then hands it off to a small company to sue a bunch of banks and generate more revenue for itself. That doesn’t seem right. It certainly doesn’t help promote the progress of science or the useful arts. The story gets even more ridiculous when you compare it to a story we had a few years ago where an unnamed government agency (possibly the Navy) used a “states secret” claim to avoid having to license a patent. So, basically, the government can use whatever patents it wants without licensing them, but when it comes to its own tax-payer-funded patents, it hands them off to companies to sue others on its behalf. I’m sure that’s exactly what Thomas Jefferson pictured when he worked out the details of our original patent system.

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Comments on “Is The US Navy Using Patents To Shake Down Companies?”

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Danny says:

the government can't own a patent, can it?

State secrets aside (a completely different can of worms), I don’t see how the Navy can hold a patent.

I’ve done software development work under DARPA grants before (as probably several readers of this blog). Everything we created that was turned over to the government was in the public domain. (Other games are played where one tries to write the contract to permit the developer to retain rights to software – but that is a third can of worms.)

How can the Navy get a patent???

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m with Poster #2. Who the hell is the small company that is actually doing the litigation? They get to pocket 70% of all the money from litigation about infringement on a patent they DONT EVEN OWN.

This is flat out bullshit. At the MOST the US Navy should be able to ‘go after’ the companies not paying the license fee to use the patent (don’t like that either, but it’s what should be allowed in the current system).

This is like me renting some construction equipment, it getting stolen, and then ME claiming my 40,000 dollar tractor was stolen. It’s fraudulent!

Personally, I don’t see how the Navy or any other arm of the government can own patents. To me, if something is invented by the US Navy, it should be available for all US Citizens to use without having to pay some asinine fee. The point to the government is to “provide for the good and welfare of the people” and I don’t see how this kind of thing is helping me.

whiner says:

often these patents are generated by the small company doing the work under a contract for which the navy gets ownership of the patent. so the small company that the gov’t “hands” the patent to is the company that often developed the technology in the first place . . . it just didn’t get the “ownership” of the patent because taxpayer dollars funded the Navy’s or DoD’s investment.

by the way to #4 – a patent *is* public domain. public domain just refers to the publishing, but doesn’t give the public the right to compete w/ the owner of the patent

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

so the small company that the gov’t “hands” the patent to is the company that often developed the technology in the first place

That’s your assertion, but do you have any evidence? And even if it were true, why should a company that was already paid for a product be given back the product it provided? Talk about a sweetheart deal.

it just didn’t get the “ownership” of the patent because taxpayer dollars funded the Navy’s or DoD’s investment.

And it shouldn’t. Or the benefits of ownership. Those should go to the taxpayers who paid for it.

I figured some covert military “communications officers” might show up to defend this practice. Are you one?

Lee says:

I work at a Navy R&D lab. The proceeds from ideas that we patent are used to help fund further research – thus saving the tax payers money. First we save money or lives by inventing a better solution, then we enable industry to commercialize the solution (feeding the economy), then we use a portion of that money to pay for more research to invent more stuff that saves lives and money. Your complaint is?

Clueby4 says:

Don't you knees hurt !?!

Government agencies/ employees don’t get copyright protection. (well state gov is fuzzy but only if your ethics are). So why should they get patent protection.

Government exist only thru the public’s sufferance, claims of “saving money” or even more dubious claims of “saving lives” is just pathetic rationalizations for the abuse of the publics trust. I’d hate to see the state of the knees of people who find this scam acceptable.

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