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Patent push: US Navy received nearly 400 patents in fiscal year 2015

Office of Naval Research

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IMAGE: Naval Postgraduate School professor Mike Ross, left, and research associate professor Mark Karpenko, right, are pictured with their recently issued patent certificates for their invention, Method and Apparatus for Contingency... view more

Credit: (U.S. Navy photo by Javier Chagoya)

A process for using natural turpentine to create sustainable fuels and improve the range of diesel-powered unmanned aerial vehicles. A method to filter data from multiple hardware devices into a single interface and potentially allow one person to control several unmanned vehicle systems at once.

These are just two of the 393 patents the Department of the Navy received from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in fiscal year 2015 -- which lasted from Oct. 1, 2014, to Sep. 30, 2015. This is the largest number of patents the Navy has received since fiscal year 1977.

This surge in patents is critical since by investing in science and technology research -- and strengthening the Navy's patent portfolio -- the Office of Naval Research (ONR) lays the groundwork for new discoveries that could benefit both the American warfighter and the public. Think of innovations such as cell phones, GPS and radar, which began as ONR-supported military technology but eventually transformed global culture as well.

"One of the most important components of ONR's mission is maturing the next generation of cutting-edge science and technology," said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Mat Winter. "By securing the intellectual property rights of these game-changing technologies each year, we help our warfighters retain the technological edge on the battlefield, incentivize our scientists to increase their discoveries in the laboratory and pave the way for future innovative solutions for our Navy and country."

ONR manages the Navy's intellectual property investments, setting policy and conducting oversight of patents as well as trademarks, copyrights, inventions and royalty payments. Patents are designed to protect the patent owner's interests -- excluding others from making, using, offering for sale or selling the invention through the United States, or importing the invention for a specified time.

Some patents issued to the Navy in fiscal year 2015 include:

  • Using agricultural waste to make silicon carbide: This patent takes agricultural byproducts, such as rice and corn husks and fruit pits, and incorporates them into special containers used to produce silicon carbide -- a compound found in heating elements for industrial furnaces and in wear-resistant parts for pumps and rocket engines. This provides a new way to use the billions of pounds of agricultural waste produced yearly.

  • A reusable laboratory seat for aircraft crash testing: This seat accurately simulates seating systems used in military aircraft during crash testing, which can cost $80,000 a seat. It can be tested in a laboratory setting, is reusable and saves the military money while still helping to save lives.

  • Removing nitrous oxide from exhaust gas: Nitrous oxide is a byproduct of fossil fuels and can present severe health hazards to the human respiratory system. This patent focuses on exhaust produced by combustion-based energy sources such as coal- and oil-fired power plants, gas turbines, and diesel and gasoline internal combustion engines.

This latest patent boost is another example of the Navy's commitment to innovation. In his recent Innovation Vision statement, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said, "As an institution, we have a responsibility to put innovative ideas to work solving the demanding challenges that lie ahead. We must push to develop capabilities and concepts that make us more agile and resilient."

In July, it was announced the Navy led the government category in an annual ranking of patent portfolios published by the Intellectual Property Owners Association. This was the 16th consecutive year that the service ranked first among U.S. government agencies.

The Navy also surpassed government agencies around the world for the size and quality of its collection of patents in IEEE Spectrum Magazine's 2014 Patent Power Scorecard, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

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