The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951
Posted: Sat Dec 24, 2016 10:12 am
Got to wonder what those 5000+ inventions could have done to better the lives of humanity.The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 (Pub.L. 82–256, 66 Stat. 3, enacted February 1, 1952, codified at 35 U.S.C. §§ 181–188) is a body of United States federal law designed to prevent disclosure of new inventions and technologies that, in the opinion of selected federal agencies, present a possible threat to the national security of the United States.
The U.S. government has long sought to control the release of new technologies that might threaten the national defense and economic stability of the country. During World War I, Congress authorized the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to classify certain defense-related patents. This initial effort lasted only for the duration of that war but was reimposed in October 1941 in anticipation of the U.S. entry into World War II. Patent secrecy orders were initially intended to remain effective for two years, beginning on July 1, 1940, but were later extended for the duration of the war.
The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 made such patent secrecy permanent, though the order to suppress any invention must be renewed each year (except during periods of declared war or national emergency) [note--the United States has been under a declared state of "national emergency" since March 9, 1933 so this "renewal" never actually applies]. Under this Act, defense agencies provide the PTO with a classified list of sensitive technologies in the form of the "Patent Security Category Review List" (PSCRL). The decision to classify new inventions under this act is made by "defense agencies" as defined by the President. Generally, these agencies include the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Security Agency (NSA), Department of Energy, and NASA, but even the Justice Department has played this role.
Since 2002, the number of secrecy orders has grown, with 5,002 secrecy orders in effect at the end of fiscal year 2007.