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Government Secrecy Orders On Patents Have Stifled More Than 5,000 Inventions

Publication Date: 
April 16, 2013
G.W. Schulz

Professor Mark Lemley spoke with Wired's G.W. Schulz about the "legal limbo" patent owners find themselves in when it comes to secrecy orders. 

More than 10 years ago, Robert Gold sought to do what many Americans have dreamed of their whole lives: patent an idea.

Gold developed a breakthrough in wireless communications that would help people speak to one another with less interference and greater security.


"From the patent owner’s perspective, you're stuck in this legal limbo where the government says you've got this valid invention, but there's nothing you can do with it until maybe decades later," said Mark Lemley, a technology law professor at Stanford University.


Lemley and others understand why defense officials might want to shield cryptographic technology that could prevent the government from secretly eavesdropping on the conversations for foreign enemies. But modern encryption can also protect consumers from identity thieves and allow human rights activists living under abusive regimes to communicate more freely.