1 December 2021Muireann Bolger

US defence dept urged to shore-up IP protection

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is failing to take key steps to improve and safeguard the IP of its weaponry to avoid a surge in future costs, a new report has warned.

The country’s Government Accountability Office (GAO) published its report, Defense Acquisitions: DOD should take additional actions to improve how it approaches intellectual property, yesterday, November 30.

The report noted that while the DOD acquires and  IP—such as computer software and technical data—for its weapon systems, it often does not acquire the IP it needs to operate and maintain those systems.

Over the past three decades, the GAO has cautioned that insufficient IP can reduce the country’s mission readiness and lead to surging costs.

In response to such concerns, the DOD assigned specific IP responsibilities to organisations within the department in 2019 and committed to hiring a group of IP experts known as the ‘IP Cadre’.

But the GAO has identified some problems with the DOD’s approach so far and has issued four recommendations, including that the agency should determine the collaboration, staffing, and resources needed across the department to execute its proposed approach for the IP Cadre. The DOD has responded by concurring with all recommendations.

The report also revealed that DOD officials were concerned that the department lacks sufficient expertise in two key areas—IP valuation (determining its worth) and financial analysis.

While the DOD is currently conducting a pilot project to study valuation strategies, DOD officials reportedly said that more work was needed to provide this expertise.

According to the report, the DOD has not yet fully addressed how its new group of specialised experts will fulfil all of its responsibilities. Determining the IP Cadre's staffing and resource needs will help DOD better position the IP Cadre for success, urged the GAO.

The report also highlighted that the IP Cadre faces uncertainty in the area of funding and staffing. The DOD currently plans to provide the director of the IP Cadre and his team in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) with funding for five positions through fiscal year 2023.

But IP Cadre members told the GAO that the temporary positions were a disincentive during the hiring process and could present future staffing obstacles.

Additionally, the members of the IP Cadre at the OSD plan to tap into a larger pool of IP experts across DOD to help the department develop IP strategies and negotiate with contractors, among other things.

However, the GAO’s report flagged that the DOD has not yet detailed how the director of the IP Cadre and the OSD team will work with these other experts.

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