WASHINGTON (CN) - A man whose stealth technology and weapons inventions put him on the road to a Nobel Prize says the government declassified his patents to reap the rewards.
Physicist and engineer Frank Trunk made the allegations in a federal complaint, originally filed under seal, against U.S. Navy Secretary Raymond Mabus, Energy Secretary Dr. Ernest Moniz, Defense Secretary Charles Hagel and Michelle Lee, the deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Trunk says he made his breakthroughs in 1993, filing for patents for inventions involving aircraft and ship stealth technology, submarine stealth technology and nuclear-weapon designs.
"Those applications describe fundamental breakthroughs in physics and material science that according to one senior Navy scientist 'are the sort of thing Nobel prizes are made of,'" the Dec. 8 complaint states.
Though the Office of Naval Research (ONR) classified the patents in 2000 because exposure posed a potential threat to national security, Trunk says the Navy has begun declassifying the patents and doling the information out to military contractors, all while intimidating and threatening Trunk to keep him away from the rights to his inventions - and the profits.
Trunk says the government has told him that his own inventions are now classified and that his knowledge of the very technology he conceived is a criminal offense.
"Mr. Trunk has been told that as a matter of law, technically he cannot even 'think about' or discuss with myself' the subject matter of the patent applications because of the lack of security clearance," the complaint states. "The DOE [Department of Energy] General Counsel's Office has even asked (presumably in jest) whether Mr. Trunk is now required to 'shoot himself' since he is in possession of classified information without a security clearance." (Brackets added, parentheses in original.)
An attorney with the Naval Air System Command allegedly told Trunk that "he would 'never make a penny' from his technology. He was told that his heirs might make something from it, if the government ever turned it loose, but that he would not."
But the Navy changed its tune when contractors like General Dynamics began sniffing around and requesting access to Trunk's technology, according to the complaint. At that point the Navy allegedly told Trunk that the patents were never really classified.
"In April 2005, after he became aware that the Secrecy Orders had been rescinded, Mr. Trunk contacted the DOD-IG's office and was told that it might be several more years before his complaint was resolved because his case was 'difficult,'" the complaint states, abbreviating Department of Defense - Inspector General. "Mr. Trunk was later told by staff from the DOD-IG's office to 'watch your back and cover your ass,' 'not to worry about anyone else,' and to 'beware of the industrial military complex.' When Mr. Trunk asked if this meant he was being targeted by ONR, he was told to interpret the warning 'any way he wanted.'"
Trunk says the government fast-tracked the declassification of his patents in secret and without meeting the legal requirements, then covered its tracks while refusing to release classified security receipts.
"ONR and the other defendants engaged in an improper and unlawful course of conduct in a deliberate and malicious manner in an attempt to gain possession of Mr. Trunk's valuable intellectual property without compensation, and in the process preventing Mr. Trunk from benefiting financially and professionally from his own discoveries, without regard or concern as to how this conduct would affect Mr. Trunk's personal life or his career as an engineer, scientist, and businessman," according to the complaint.
Trunk, who doesn't know if his patents are classified or declassified, is asking the judge to clear up the matter.
He is represented by Gary Hnath of Mayer Brown.