Patent secrecy - most applicants will never have to be concerned about this but there are some situations in which the Commissioner of Patents might make a ruling that your application is kept secret for a time.
When the publication of an application or the grant of a patent on an invention in which the Government has a property interest because the development of the invention was government funded, the US Patent Office will notify the interested Government agency. That agency might deem the publication to be detrimental to the national security. When that happens the Commissioner of Patents may order that the invention be kept secret and will withhold the publication of an application or the grant of a patent.
What if the government does not have a property right?
Even if the government does not have a property interest, the Commissioner of Patents might deem that the publication could be detrimental to the national security. Under that scenario the Commissioner of Patents will make the application available for inspection to the Atomic Energy Commission, the Secretary of Defense, and the chief officer of any other department or agency of the Government designated by the President as a defense agency of the United States.
An officer of each of those organizations then studies the application and signs a dated acknowledgment which is entered in the file of the application. If any of those officers gives an opinion that publication of the application or granting of the patent would be detrimental to the national security the Commissioner of Patents will order patent secrecy and will withhold the publication of the application or the grant of a patent for whatever period the national interest requires, and applicant is so notified.
The application is then maintained in a sealed condition.
The owner of an application which has been placed under a secrecy order does have a right to appeal the order to the Secretary of Commerce.
How long does patent secrecy last?
The order for secrecy is good for one year. But the Commissioner of Patents can renew the order at the end of each year if he is notified by the Department that caused the order to be issued that it should continue.
An order in effect, or issued, during a time when the United States is at war, will remain in effect for the duration of hostilities and one year following cessation of hostilities. An order in effect, or issued, during a national emergency declared by the President remains in effect for the duration of the national emergency and six months thereafter.
If at any time the chief officers of the agencies who caused the order to be issued communicate to the Commissioner of Patents that the publication or grant of the invention is no longer deemed detrimental to the national security, the Commissioner may rescind the order.
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