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image Project on Government Secrecy

Invention Secrecy

The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 requires the government to impose "secrecy orders" on certain patent applications that contain sensitive information, thereby restricting disclosure of the invention and withholding the grant of a patent. Remarkably, this requirement can be imposed even when the application is generated and entirely owned by a private individual or company without government sponsorship or support.

There are several types of secrecy orders which range in severity from simple prohibitions on export (but allowing other disclosure for legitimate business purposes) up to classification, requiring secure storage of the application and prohibition of all disclosure.

At the end of fiscal year 2014, there were 5,520 secrecy orders in effect.

International Agreements on Defense-Related Patents, Classified Patent Applications and Invention Secrecy (courtesy of Michael Ravnitzky)

maintained by Steven Aftergood


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