Violation of SBIR Protected Information?04 Oct

SBIR CONSULTANT BULLETIN – Protecting Proprietary Information

I recently conducted a webinar on SBIR proposal writing for the Association of Clean Tech Incubators of New England (ACTION). An attendee posed the following question on Government treatment of proprietary information. Here is the question and my answer:

Question: “I have never been 100% clear on what, if all, of proprietary info is protected and not be disclosed to 3rd parties (potentially competitors).  I understand that the gov’t agency has provisions for the proposer to identify what is proprietary info and the agency puts forth a _limited_ effort to protect that information.  However, I believe that if a 3rd party (i.e. competitor) really wants info in the proposal or subsequent project reports, etc — the 3rd party can eventually get the info from the agency if they push hard for it.  I believe they can do this under freedom of info act.  I do not know this for certain, however.  Under such a scenario, therefore, it is important to have a provisional patent on any key info that is disclosed in docs sent to gov’t.  Is this definitely the case?”

Answer: Although Government agency violation of SBIR data rights is illegal, it may happen. I do not know of any specific cases, however. Having a patent before writing a SBIR proposal may provide protection. On the other hand, such a patent could reveal your “secret sauce.” You may proceed with a patent application during a Phase I or II program. While working at my previous company, the contracts folks asked about any possible patent disclosures related to my SBIR programs.

Having “been around the block” a few times, it strikes me that if you have a desirable innovation worth millions, do expect to have your patent violated. From a small company perspective, it would be extremely costly to defend your position against a large corporation with “deep pockets.” In essence, these are the risks one assumes in the innovation space. Here is a link to the SBIR rules on data rights.

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About Dr. Everson

Prior to forming this SBIR consultant practice, Dr. Jeffrey Everson was director of business development for QinetiQ North America’s Technology Solutions Group (previously Foster-Miller, Inc.).

Dr. Everson has won and been the principal investigator for several SBIR programs, including a Phase I program for NASA, a Phase I project for the U.S. Air Force, and Phase I and II contracts from the U.S. Department of Transportation. For the Phase II program, he received a Tibbetts Award for exemplifying the best in SBIR achievement.

Previously Dr. Everson held senior scientist positions at Battelle Memorial Institute, The Analytic Sciences Corporation (TASC), Honeywell Electro Optics Systems Division, and Itek Optical Systems Division.

He holds a PhD in physics from Boston College and a MS/BS in physics from Northeastern University.


For more information about how JHEverson Consulting can help your company with its SBIR and STTR proposals, please contact Jeff Everson.

JHEverson Consulting is based in the Boston area but consults for clients throughout North America. It also is supported by affiliated consultants.