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CHIPS Articles: Five Years and Running: U.S. Navy Sails by Competition for Number, Quality of Patents

Five Years and Running: U.S. Navy Sails by Competition for Number, Quality of Patents
By Tammy White, Office of Naval Research - January 16, 2014
ARLINGTON, Va. — A laser with the potential to jam heat-seeking missiles and sniff out chemicals is one of 358 technologies patented by the U.S. Navy in 2012, helping the service dominate the government category in an annual ranking of patent portfolios published Oct. 23.

For the fifth consecutive year, the U.S. Department of the Navy eclipsed agencies around the world for the size and quality of its patent portfolio in IEEE Spectrum magazine’s 2013 Patent Power Scorecard. It’s an honor the Navy has held since the scorecard added the government category in 2008.

“The Navy is proud of its position as a technology leader as demonstrated by the strength of its patent portfolio,” said Dr. Walter F. Jones, executive director at the Office of Naval Research (ONR). “Most striking is the range of technologies, from lasers to vaccines.”

ONR manages the naval patent portfolio, setting policy and conducting oversight of patents as well as trademarks, copyrights, inventions and royalty payments for intellectual property.

A sampling of the patent submissions shepherded by ONR in 2012 include:

  • A high-temperature interband cascade laser, whose infrared emissions may improve the ability to jam heat-seeking missiles, sense the presence of chemicals in the body or environment, and in other national security applications
  • A method for using satellite and other aerial imagery to demarcate land from waterways, allowing computers to “see” the shoreline much like the human eye, which can be helpful for planning naval operations in remote or hard-to-reach locations
  • A method for manipulating quantum dots, the same tiny materials used to enhance the visual display in high-end entertainment units, which could lead to breakthroughs in identifying, authenticating and encrypting various documents and data

Last year, all three patents received the prestigious Edison Award, an accolade for demonstrated “excellence in new product and service development, marketing, human-centered design and innovation.”

“There is hardly an area of technology that the Navy is not interested in,” said Jones. “Many of the Navy’s early investments in basic and applied research have applications stretching beyond the battlefield to our first-response and medical communities, commercial aviation and shipping, and computing and security industries, to name a few.”

Other U.S. agencies rounding out the top 10 portfolios include the U.S. Army, Department of Health and Human Services, NASA and the Department of Energy.

Across the 17 industry sectors evaluated in its scorecard, IEEE evaluated more than 5,000 organization portfolios for the number of patents issued as well as the growth, impact, originality and general applicability across their respective portfolios.

The magazine, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, partners with the 1790 Analytics firm to produce the annual ranking of corporations, nonprofits, academic institutions and government agencies.

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

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