Monday, November 20, 2017

Prosecution Delays at the USPTO of the Type We Are Not Meant To Hear About (Part II)

by Steve Reiss (

Part I of this Article is here.

Part I of this article discussed William Friedman's USP 6,097,812 (2000), with its 66 year pendency due to 65, yearly, security holds, currently holds the "world record" for suppressed/classified inventions

Friedman's crypto patent's 66 year security hold/pendency is longer than any security hold for any atomic weapon technology that was actually granted a patent. I have to use the caveat "actually granted" because there is a possibility that there are atomic weapon technology patent applications still under secrecy hold. However, who knows if another 1930's filed Friedman invention is also still under secrecy hold.

The closest atomic weapon application pendency length I could find was USP 6,761,862 (filed 1945/granted 2004)(59 years) and I was only able to find it with the help of the website Atomic Patents.

 USP 6,761,862 is directed to:

some obscure chemical process in the enrichment of uranium (uranium hexafluoride is the "fluorine-containing gas" in question), probably in relation to the gaseous diffusion method used to enrich uranium at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, during the Manhattan Project.
See Atomic Patents.

The author of Atomic Patents interviewed the Department of Energy's legal counsel in charge of the uranium processing patent. The author of Atomic Patents asked him why these patents are still prosecuted despite their extremely extended age. He said (emphasis added):
Our feeling has been that a significant taxpayer investment was made to create the inventions and to prosecute the patents so that payment of the issue fee finalizes the effort to provide a property right arising from the government funding. Of equal merit is the recognition provided to the inventors. When the patent issues we make a small good faith effort to find the inventor or a surviving spouse and notify them of the issuance of the patent. When notify someone, they are usually deeply moved by the recognition provided for their long ago secret efforts.
It is reported that the Manhattan Project inventor of this uranium processing patent, James P. Brusie, had been some time deceased by the time his patent was issued, though I could not find out how long.


Closing Thoughts:

When I was a patent examiner at the USPTO from 1988-1993, the secrecy examining group was, I believe Examining Group 220 and, if I recall, also examined design applications. Talk about a range of subject matter.

Examining Group 220 was located on a top floor in one of the then-USPTO's Crystal Plaza buildings in Crystal City.

One day, I needed to go to another USPTO building to “search the shoes” (i.e., the paper patent files) of some other class from the class I regularly examined. These were the days before there was any way to efficiently do computer searches in the electro-mechanical arts. But that is a different story.

When I got off the elevator, the first thing I saw was wood grained, locked double doors to the office space for Examining Group 220 and their "Do Not Enter" signs. Friedman’s crypto and Brusie’s uranium processing patent applications were probably still locked in vaults behind those double doors.

However, back among us regular examiners, the gossip was not about what kind of cryptographic or atomic weapons patent applications were behind those doors. 

Our pondering was on far more mundane subjects, such as: never-dulling razor blades or everlasting light bulbs.

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