The Great American Science Heist

“Rickover railed against the proposed policy changes. “Government contractors should not be given title to inventions developed at government expense,” he said. “These inventions are paid for by the public and therefore should be available for any citizen to use or not as he sees fit.”

This seemed self-evident to Rickover. After all, he noted, “companies generally claim title to the inventions of their employees on the basis that the company pays their wages.” It befuddled and angered him that the U.S. government would consider giving up its own shop rights to industries that would never do the same. …

In the summer of 1979, the latest such bill was entering its sixth month of hearings on the merits of pulling the Kennedy policy inside-out. Sponsored by Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., it would shift the burden onto government to prove that its ownership of a patent better served the public than a private monopoly, rather than the other way around. The bill was considered a long shot to get past the dens of liberal lions in the Senate and President Jimmy Carter, but it was gaining traction among Democrats.

As the bill’s chances of passage grew, Rickover stepped up his warnings to lawmakers not to fall for “the age-old arguments of the patent lobby” and pass legislation that “promotes greater concentration of economic power [and] impedes the development and dissemination of technology.” …”

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