Patent Secrecy Orders Lifted on Rocket Propellants

A Florida company called Space Propulsion Systems, Inc. announced this week that it had successfully petitioned the U.S. Government to lift secrecy orders that had been imposed on two of its rocket propellant concepts.

Under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951, the government may restrict the publication and dissemination of information about new inventions if their disclosure could be “detrimental to the national security.”

At the end of fiscal year 2006, there were 4942 invention secrecy orders in effect, according to statistics obtained by Secrecy News from the Patent and Trademark Office. There were 108 new orders imposed in FY 2006, while 81 existing orders were rescinded.

It is usually difficult if not impossible to identify patents and patent applications that were subject to invention secrecy orders which have been rescinded, though doing so would make an interesting construct for a historical research project.

But in this case, the applicant identified itself.

“Space Propulsion Systems, Inc. is pleased to announce that the Patent and Trademark Office of the Department of Commerce has rescinded the Secrecy Orders that had been imposed with respect to both its WREEM homogeneous propellant and the Supercritical Fluids fabricated Micro Fuel Cell composite rocket propellant in the light of guidance provided by U.S. defense agencies,” according to a company news release.

“Although SPS intends to work with the US Government in any way required to protect this technology, SPS believed that the Company needed to develop this technology for the sake of the US, the stockholders of SPS, and the Company. SPS therefore requested our patent attorneys to petition the US Government to rescind the Secrecy Orders on these products. It took over a year, but SPS was finally successful in this effort,” the release said.

Copies of Secrecy Order forms of various types (pdf) issued by the Patent Office are available here (courtesy of Michael Ravnitzky).

Some other background on invention secrecy may be found here.