Home : Media : News : Saved News Module
NEWS | Aug. 18, 2021

Tracking New Progress: NSWCDD Offices Work Together to Revamp the Patent Application Process

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Every day, scientists and engineers at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) introduce their best efforts for innovation into projects to protect the naval warfighter. Each program and development is constantly adjusted and tweaked to meet the end goal. The creative efforts of individuals at NSWCDD do not stop with these mission-focused projects.

It is said that invention is the root of innovation, and innovation is the major force for change in the future. This drive for improvement leads to ground-breaking discoveries and consequently, new patents.

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a patent is a “limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the USPTO in exchange for public disclosure of the invention.” At NSWCDD, the Office of Legal Counsel and Chief Technology Office (CTO) act as sources for inventors looking to make a permanent mark.

“We have patents dating back to the 1960s,” said NSWCDD Assistant Counsel for Intellectual Property (IP) Chip Towler. “Admiral John Dahlgren even had a couple of patents himself! He was known for his advances in cannons and surface warfare.”

Dahlgren’s more famous patents included better ways to strengthen iron cannons so lighter-weight cannons could throw heavier shots onboard wooden ships and a system allowing for a gun to adjust as the ships rocked back and forth in the waves.

In today’s time, patents look a little different. In the 2020 NSWCDD Honorary Awards, individual employees and teams received patent awards for their technological advancements and recognition of their now-active patents. Of the 13 patent awards presented during 2020, at least four were for “computer-implemented methods.”

“Especially here at Dahlgren, the advancements our employees are working on not only push the envelope, but push beyond the envelope,” said Towler. “It’s interesting – sometimes we get a patent [for a NSWCDD-created invention] and it won’t be of much interest for a couple years until technology catches up.”

As technology has expanded its spread across the globe and U.S. patent law has evolved to meet the higher demand signal, a more efficient patent application process at NSWCDD has also emerged with help from the CTO.

“Current USPTO regulations state that the first to publish [an idea or invention] gets the patent,” explained Chief Scientist for the CTO Blaise Corbett. “It doesn’t matter if someone has been working on an idea longer. Speed to publication is the critical factor.”

In response to the need for speed, the CTO – run by NSWCDD CTO Jennifer Clift and deputy CTO Karen Smith – has teamed with the Office of Legal Counsel to overhaul and accelerate the patent application process at NSWCDD. One new aspect of the revised patent process is the shift from a manually intensive process to a more efficient and effective web-based process. The new SharePoint-based application introduces modern and consistent workflow processes and provides a common interface with added functionality to users.

Like a thin server (another NSWCDD patented invention), access is granted to specific individuals as the patent progresses through each stage of the process.

“The web application can provide not only the status of an application, but can also provide metrics on processing time, number of patents aligned to a technical thrust and the number of contributions by an inventor or organization,” explained Corbett. “All of these factors provide better insight and coordination with the inventor, the Office of Counsel and the CTO. The less time we have to spend wrestling the process, the more time we can commit to providing guidance and support to the inventor.”

In addition to the shift to a web-based application tracking process, the CTO revamped the Invention Evaluation Board (IEB) process.

“The previous IEB process resulted in longer wait times for an application’s review,” said Corbett. “The new process allows faster coordination between the CTO, the departments and the inventors, shifting the application process timeline from months to weeks.”

With the time saved, the CTO is encouraging innovation and increased inventor submissions through patent incentives and innovation grants for NSWCDD creators. Communication between the CTO and Partnership Intermediaries promotes opportunities for expanded patent licensing, allowing entrepreneurs and academia to leverage Navy-patented technology for government or commercial use.

 “The purpose of a patent and the patent process is to protect and ultimately leverage Navy IP to the benefit of the nation and military service,” said Corbett. “IP also enhances the technical reputation of the warfare centers by creating a tangible value. We have a talented, motivated and innovative workforce. Our processes and policies should serve to cultivate that innovation.”