Policy

Pentagon assembles team of intellectual property experts

Questions linger about how to properly compensate defense industry for data

The Pentagon's intellectual property team can include personnel from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, military departments and combatant commands. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Defense Department is on the verge of standing up a new cadre of intellectual property experts to help the Pentagon negotiate rights to valuable data and other IP from defense contractors, the department’s top weapons buyer said Monday.

“We need to go on the offense to protect our technology, versus merely acting defensively,” Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, said during a briefing with reporters.

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Chinese theft of intellectual property affects national security, American commerce and the defense industry, Lord added, echoing comments from President Donald Trump and other top administration officials. But questions linger about how to properly compensate the defense industry for the information, such as flight data, it collects from its increasingly computerized weapons.

Congress required the Defense Department to assemble a team of IP experts in the fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill. The goal, according to the bill, is “to ensure a consistent, strategic, and highly knowledgeable approach to acquiring or licensing intellectual property by providing expert advice, assistance, and resources to the acquisition workforce on intellectual property matters, including acquiring or licensing intellectual property.”

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“The group is really focused on how we as a government-industry partnership work together to address intellectual property,” Lord said. “My experience says that typically we have problems with intellectual property when we don’t clearly define what is owned by industry and what is owned by government at the outset of a program.”

Lord did not specify the cadre’s membership or its structure, only that it aims to launch in October, almost two years after Congress mandated its creation.

The defense bill gives Lord responsibility for assembling the IP team, which can include personnel from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, military departments, defense agencies and combatant commands.  

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