There are already many innovations that are years ahead of this discussion in the defense contractor 'sphere' of development, involving unmanned drones and attack craft.
Comparing the x-37B to the space shuttle is like comparing a model airplane to the real thing. It has nowhere near the same capabilities. While I do agree that its technology is a start in the right direction, There is perhaps more merit in revisiting an idea like the VentureStar:
In order to replace something, you must meet and surpass the capabilities of what you intend to replace. IMHO, We should keep flying the shuttles until an idea like this can happen as we really don't have a real replacement option.
SSTO (Single Stage to Orbit) would be a great evolution away from using wasteful expendable rockets, only burning fuel in the spacecraft's engines to reach orbit.
"The technology sector," -is relative to the era. In those terms, start-ups keeping an idea secret before release is nothing new. The same goes for corporations. We have been doing it for over a century. As far as failure to keep an idea secret in today's world, look no farther than the internet and today's culture. Today, people as a whole are far too willing to blab about anything instead of choosing one's words carefully. "Stealth mode" is just the late4st buzz term to describe when everyone at a given company should keep one's yap trap -shut about their jobs. Look at the defense industry for example. Way back it was considered a patriotic good deed not to tell anyone what you were working on at your job. Whereas people over the last 30 years have been increasingly loosed lipped about secrets. Again, that is just an example.
Transparency has it advantages. Take Microsoft and its various "bread and butter" products like office and Windows 7. They have learned to be smart about it by making the world their testing department. The result, better software releases.
Another commenter mentioned: "but aren't patents supposed to encourage people not to be stealth by encouraging transparency?"
Transparency through patent in today's "Information age" (god I hate buzz words) is a given, when all a person has to do is search them by keyword on a website.
It wasn't as easy just 20 years ago, let alone 30 - 100 years past when such things were conducted through a lawyer, on a local visit to a patent office if you were lucky to have one, or through snail mail. The result in the past was much the same that it would take months or greater to get an answer on your patent. Again, its relative to the era. My point? The state of things were much less organized and decentralized than today, as was the whole apparatus itself was just plain inefficient. :)
To Mike: While I enjoy reading your articles, you tend to focus on patent and copyright far too much in my opinion. I do agree that perhaps you do so to point out the shenanigans and goings on. Maybe you should look around the tech industry for other stuff to write about?
Well, as long as these guys didn't sign a non-compete - Non disclosure agreements when they left Universal, I don't see how they think they can touch them. Those agreements usually only last six months to a year, and are largely treated as BS by courts anyway, since a person has to work in their profession to survive. :)
Wait for whatever the contracts that were signed by the "big wigs," to expire. I have lived through two corporate acquisitions. When that contract signed at purchase expires, things will change. They always do. They always come in with the "nothing will change" speech, saying "we want that uniqueness that is ." But the sad truth is that a VERY HIGH percentage of corporate acquisitions are made to remove the competition.