Last year, 95 secrecy orders barring disclosure of inventions under the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 were imposed on new patent applications while 36 prior secrecy orders were rescinded. Three of the newly releasable inventions have recently received patents, decades after the inventors filed their applications.
The three new patents were identified by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The formerly secret inventions that received patents this year are:
Patent Number 9057604: Point-ahead laser pointer-tracker systems with wavefront correction in both transmit and receive directions. Filed in April 1989, the patent application was finally granted in June 2015.
Patent Number 9115993: Fused PM fiber single-polarization resonator. It was filed in August 1990 and granted in August 2015.
Patent Number 9181140: Solid propellant bonding agents and methods for their use. It was filed in December 1993 and granted in November 2015.
The factors that led the U.S. government to impose secrecy orders on these particular inventions more than two decades ago (and to release them this year) are not self-evident. But neither do they seem to indicate an obvious abuse of authority.
There were a total of 5,579 invention secrecy orders in effect at the end of fiscal year 2015, the highest number of such secrecy orders since FY 1993.