Dave Ghatt is surrounded by genius and he knows just what to do with it.
Ghatt is the lead patent attorney at the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s facility in West Bethesda, Maryland, known as the Carderock Division. On Sept. 19, he brought about 60 Navy scientists and engineers he calls colleagues into a room.
“A patent is a legal document that protects new, useful and non-obvious inventions,” Ghatt said. “A patent lasts 20 years from the day you file it.”
New machines, manufactured items, composition of matter, software, hardware, and processes, including business methods, can all be patented.
“Patents are a protective measure,” said Ghatt. “When we develop inventions, if someone else patents it then it will prevent the Navy from actually using it without paying for it. Patents allow us as an organization to practice and promote our technologies without any restrictions.”
Along with prestige, accomplishment and career advancement for having invented something new, Carderock provides cash awards to employee-inventors when they submit an invention disclosure and at other various stages of the patenting process.
“Five hundred dollars is awarded to the employee when the patent is filed and another $500 when the patent is issued,” Ghatt said.
Ghatt also talked about the consequences of publicly disclosing an invention before it is filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. If an employee publically discloses their invention anywhere in the world in any of various ways via e-mail, printed publication, conference presentation, Internet or actually use the invention, then that patent application must be filed within one year from the date of the public disclosure.
“If you go over the year period, you will lose rights to a U.S. patent for the invention,” the attorney said.
Partnering for success
After a patent is filed on a Navy invention, Dr. Joe Teter, director of technology transfer at Carderock, can use it to attract academic and industry partners.
Teter explained what CRADAs (Cooperative Research and Development Agreements), EPAs (Educational Partnership Agreements), and PLAs (Patent License Agreements) are to his inventive colleagues–agreements that allow defense laboratories and centers to partner with other outside organizations to further the development and commercialization of their research and technology.
One key method for technology transfer from the federal government to the public is by patenting new inventions and then licensing them to state and local governments, industry and universities.
And TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary, partners with the Navy to facilitate these agreements with businesses and entrepreneurs.
TechLink’s staff of certified licensing professionals facilitate about 60 percent of patent license agreements across the defense laboratory enterprise.
If a Navy invention is licensed to a private sector partner, under federal law, the employee-inventor receives a set sum of money from $2,000 per year in the first year up to $150,000, the maximum amount per year that an employee-inventor may receive from Navy royalties on an invention.
The hope is that a commercial entity will license a patent and create the product that the government can then buy back, Teter said. That’s where technology transfer comes in.
The goal of the Navy’s technology transfer efforts is to bridge the gap with commercial entities so that federally funded laboratory resources and research can be shared with non-federal organizations to support the development and commercialization of new technology.
Teaming together in this way benefits more than just the individuals and organizations involved. The transfer of federally developed technology can have a positive effect on the greater scientific research community, the commercial sector, the economy, consumers and the public.
“Technology transfer is truly a win-win,” said Brett Cusker, associate director of defense programs at TechLink. “New jobs are created when businesses expand with technologies from defense labs, the lab gets access to expertise in the private sector, and our warfighters are supplied with the best equipment and capabilities.”