Too Much Free Time

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
classified, patents

Would A Patent's Title Be Classified?

from the just-wondering... dept

Ira writes in to point us to a patent application on a sort of weapons device, where the title of the patent is listed solely as "Classified." It would be interesting if some patent attorneys in the crowd could weigh in on this. If the purpose of the patent system is to distribute knowledge, then you would think a classified patent doesn't make much sense -- but this is even odder, in that it's the title, not the patent itself (which is for some sort of weapon), that is "classified." It could be that the inventor himself (Peter Lockhart) set the title as "classified" but that doesn't make much sense either. Anyone know what's going on here?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Goyal, Dec 11th, 2008 @ 11:03pm

    From all I could analyze from the patent transaction history, it seems that the inventor himself has titled his application as classified.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Willton, Dec 11th, 2008 @ 11:07pm

    Well, for one, it's not actually "classified"

    While the name says "Classified," the application is clearly not classified now, as you and I can access its information. The invention disclosure is clearly public, even if the inventor does not want to give it a name.

    However, the fact that it has taken over 4 years for this application to publish was curious to me, so I checked its file wrapper on PAIR. It appears that the U.S. Army had originally placed a secrecy order on this application. That secrecy order was lifted on September 19, 2007, likely as a consequence of the PTO issuing a notice of allowance only a few weeks earlier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous, Dec 11th, 2008 @ 11:32pm

    If a patent application gets classified, it's as good as gone. They give the inventor no warning and no further work can be done on processing the application. An application I worked on years ago was almost classified by the DoD, but the inventor suspected it was coming when the DoD abruptly withdrew an offer to further develop the technology, so he published his research in an MIT journal. Lucky for him, he got to keep his application. Unfortunately, the examiner has no clue what his invention does because it's rather arcane nanotechnology and the examiner's from India with poor English skills. :-

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    bob, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 1:21am

    Bunker Buster

    It looks like the patent for the GBU-28 bunker buster bomb.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Ross M Karchner, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 3:19am

    All I know...

    I wouldn't want to be Fig 2. Item 10.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Ferin (profile), Dec 12th, 2008 @ 5:03am

    Could have been classified then abandoned.

    It's actually a rather interesting idea, possibly it was classified previously and the army or whoever gave up on it?

    Nifty idea though, I wonder if it would work or not?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Ima Fish, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 5:31am

    "Anyone know what's going on here?"

    Here's my guess. Back in the 60's there was a country folk rock band called the Byrds. They released an album called "Untitled." Why was it released with that name? Because of a mistake. The label asked what the title of the new album was and the answer was that it was still untitled, which is exactly what the nimrod from the label wrote down.

    Fast forward to 1972 and the label asked the band the Electric Light Orchestra for the name of the new album and received no answer. So that's what the nimrod from the label wrote down. Some other nimrod actually thought that "No Answer" was the name of the album, so that's how it was released.

    In other words, I think the name of this patent was a mistake. I think initially and internally it was classified but the word was mistakenly not taken out when it was filed with the patent office. And via other nimrods the name stuck.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 6:57am

    Very likely a mistake for the title due to clerical error either in GB (where an application was first filed) or the US. It is not uncommon for a patent application to be placed under "secrecy order" due to national security concerns (I have worked with many such applications and the secrecy order process), but this is as the result of what is contained in the specification...the part of an application that describes the invention in detail.

    Presumably this mistake will be rectified if the application ever issues as a patent. Until then the mistake is a somewhat humorous anamoly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 7:08am


    Need spellcheck. Anamoly should read anomaly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    The Mad (Patent) Prosecutor, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 7:39am

    As others have indicated, it appears to be a printing error. The as-filed title appears to have been "apparatus and method for determining the operation of a munition." This is the title indicated on the as-filed application itself, in the Patent Office's Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Mike Brown, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 10:02am

    Title of Application

    It wasn't an error in the UK. The "Classified" title appears to have been used on the Application Data Sheet and other paperwork because the case was classified originally by the British government. Apparently, one condition of waiving the classification for filing in the USA is maintenance of secrecy about the invention. Hence, the "classified" title, so that the entry in the USPTO's indexing system wouldn't reveal the actual title.

    It was eventually declassified and published as US2008/0047450, but patent applications are published as filed, so the title remained "Classified" in the published application.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    nerd1951, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 10:08am

    Classified Patent Applications

    There's actually a pretty famous example of a patent that was killed because it was classified technology at the time. Someone tried to patent spread-spectrum radio with very unhappy results.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 10:19am

    Re: Title of Application

    There are several provisions for the filing of applications containing classified subject matter, but in such instances the applications include a cover sheet denoting the security classification, and depending upon the classification (typically SECRET and above), each page of the document is likewise marked with a stamp denoting the security classification. Nowhere, however, is there anything that even remotely suggests that a title must be identified as classified. Otherwise it is virtually impossible to later try and find the specific document.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Jeff Rife, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 11:53am

    Re: Classified Patent Applications

    It's fairly well known that part of the reason there are so many "bad" patents is that there aren't nearly enough examiners to keep up with the incoming patents.

    But, in order to know if a patent is of "classified" work, there not only have to be enough people to examine patents, but also enough people who know everything that is classified who do nothing but examine patents.

    This doesn't sound like it can be true.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Re: Classified Patent Applications

    The Patent and Trademark Office has a specific group that deals solely with these issues. This group has counterparts in all the federal government agencies that deal with subject matter potentially subject to classification(primarily the DOD, NASA and the DOE). The group also has counterparts with the Patent Offices maintained by our allies and liaisons with them on a regular basis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    gene_cavanaugh, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 8:23pm

    Patent labeled "Classified"

    The military has the right take a patent out of distribution and simply note that it is "Classified". This, IMHO, leads to more abuse than harm. The intent is to prevent the free dissemination of knowledge to terrorists, etc. (imagine a pocket sized, undetectable nuclear weapon); but since there are no checks and balances, the real reason for doing this can be almost anything. I know of at least one case where it was used for purely political reasons, no threat existed. Yet I can't even tell you why it happened!
    I think it might be good if we had some sort of checks and balances (this is a democracy, isn't it? I sometimes wonder).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 12th, 2008 @ 9:07pm

    Re: Patent labeled "Classified"

    Patent applications can easily be filed for an invention that comprises classified subject matter. Special rules appear in the regulations (37 CFR) for facilitating the filing of such applications. Of course, because the subject matter is classified a secrecy order will issue immediately and the application will remain pending before the USPTO until such time as the secrecy order is lifted.

    It is not at all unusual for a secrecy order to remain in place for many years, with the longest I have seen being about 30 or so. However, secrecy orders by law do have to be renewed by the USG every year, and failing to do so an applicant is entitled to have his/her application proceed to issue. It is also noteworthy that applications under secrecy order can also be filed in foreign patent offices that have reciprocal agreements established with the USG.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.