Apples, Blockchain, Bank Notes and Bridge Burning at The Pentagon

New Taxpayer-Funded Patent Applications for Thursday, September 2, 2021

Good Afternoon,

Happy Friday.  This Thursday we found 193 published patent applications that the federal government funded. 

We're seeing more taxpayer-funded patents electing to take advantage of the USPTO Track One program to get from application from filing to a final decision within about 12 months. Patent applications have long been viewed as a lagging indicator of innovation. With more applications being published sooner in their patent prosecution life, there is more visibility into the direction of science and technology coming from federally funded R&D.

This week, there are many intriguing patent applications—biomarkers for identifying sepsis in young patients (20210270841) and detecting traumatic injury (20210270847). And for detecting cardiovascular disease risk (20210270855). Additive manufacturing and compounds that make it useful. Quantum computing inventions and nanoparticle inventions are also part of Thursday's drop.  

The National Institute of Science and Technology wins this week’s contest for the most scientifically impressive title for a patent application — 20210270916, "PLANAR INVERSE ANAPOLE MICRORESONATOR AND PERFORMING INDUCTIVE-DETECTION ELECTRON PARAMAGNETIC RESONANCE SPECTROSCOPY." Someone has to figure out how to measure all this nano stuff.  (And NIST likes to show off its epic scientific vocabulary.)

This week’s FedInvent Patent Application Report is available.  Please explore.

Take Me To the FedInvent Report

Distributed Ledger

The United States Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260), was passed by the Senate in June. It has been floating around in the House ever since. The bill identifies ten US science and technology priorities to maintain American leadership in science and technology and global competitiveness. Category number eight is a collection of information technology capabilities — Data storage, data management, distributed ledger technologies, and cybersecurity, including biometrics. There is a strange symmetry to this group.

Distributed ledger technology, or DLT, is the more government-friendly term for blockchain, the technology that underlies bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.  The word blockchain evokes images of hackers shutting down companies and demanding a ransom paid in bitcoin after the hackers busted into the data management systems and encrypted the data in the data storage system because these firms have poor cybersecurity.  The Hill will stick with calling it distributed ledger technology.

It's unlikely that the federal government will accept payment in Bitcoin or use a public blockchain to conduct business anytime soon. Federated or permissioned blockchains, distributed ledger technology where all of the participants are known and credentialed, offer ways for the government to address some of its most challenging problems — managing its vast stores of data while reducing cybersecurity risk.  

Some promising applications include using blockchain to manage engineering files used for printing proprietary parts using 3D printing.  This process manages both access to the files and the royalties associated with the payments.  A similar use case is to manage software licenses across an agency.  As of June 2021, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) estimated that there are 2.1 million federal employees.  The majority of these employees have access to PCs or laptops running a variety of software packages. Controlling both what software can be installed on government machines and how the government pays for these licenses can be streamlined using blockchain technology.

Several blockchain providers are building document and object provenance applications for keeping track of digital assets. NIST and GSA are assessing IBM's Hyperledger for software license management.  Some DLT applications incorporate geofencing capabilities. Geofencing prevents files from being accessed by devices outside the geofence. For classified documents, these documents can't move outside of a military base or project office.

The Air Force Research Lab identified blockchain as one of its 2021 emerging technologies research priorities. The Lab is seeking new innovative blockchain research grant proposals focused on security design and analysis of the state-of-the-art open-source blockchain implementations like IOTA, developing blockchain-based techniques for different application domains, block editing, and smart contracts.

Two applications from Tenet3 were published this week. Then applications present a way to use blockchain to manage control of sensitive material. 20210271778 — RENDERING BLOCKCHAIN OPERATIONS RESISTANT TO ADVANCED PERSISTENT THREATS (APTS) and 20210273806 — BLOCKCHAIN RECORDS WITH THIRD PARTY DIGITAL SIGNATURES AS A TRUST ELEMENT FOR HIGH-RISK DIGITAL CONTENT.  Tenet3 has a pending patent application portfolio published July 29, 2021 — 20210232707 — Linking Blockchain Records to Identify Certification, Track Pedigree, and Identify Obsolete Digital Content. This invention deals with document provenance. The Air Force Research Lab in Dayton, Ohio funded the work that led to these patent applications under a $30 million contract from GSA.    

There are other patents and patent applications focused on federally-focused use of blockchain technology.  NASA received a patent for Blockchain-empowered computing (11063759). Battelle received 11099539, Multi-sensor agent devices that use blockchain to store data from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  EnergyXchain, LLC has a pending application 2021025663, "CREATING, MONITORING, AND UPDATING ENERGY TRANSACTIONS USING DISTRIBUTED LEDGER TECHNOLOGY AND CONTRACT CODEX." It uses both DLT technology and smart contracts.

If you are not a blockchain aficionado, you can use our blockchain glossary to sound like a pro.

Twenty Dollar Bills and Handbags — READ THIS APPLICATION

Wavefront Technology, Inc. is a supplier of nano & micro-structured tools, coatings, films, and appliques to the brand identity, security, lighting, aerospace, and display markets.  One of its clients is the US Treasury Bureau of Printing and Engraving.  The Bureau funded the work that led to the invention of 20210271094, "OPTICAL STRUCTURES PROVIDING DICHROIC EFFECTS," 

Dichroic is a term that means showing different colors when viewed from different directions. This invention would enable documents to change the colors on the document depending on the angle you are viewing it at. This technology is an anti-counterfeiting measure for sensitive documents, including passports, I.D. cards, chip cards, credit cards, stock certificates or other investment securities, vouchers, admission tickets. This invention can also be used for commercial packages that protect valuable items such as drugs, car and aircraft parts, and high-value products like designer handbags.  Customers, cashiers, and customs inspectors can use this technology to identify a fake easily.

US currency, for example, already incorporates a variety of security features to enable people doing business in cash to identify fake bills. Federal Reserve note paper is one-fourth linen and three-fourths cotton and contains red and blue security fibers. Bills have raised print giving currency a unique texture.  The $20 bill, the most commonly counterfeited banknote, already uses color-shifting ink.  If you tilt the bill, you can see the numeral 20 in the lower right corner of the front of the note shift from copper to green.  The Benjamins, $100 bills, have 3D security ribbons woven into the bill that changes appearance when you tilt this bill, you’ll see bells and the number 100 alternate. 

 (You can see the different currency safety features by US bill here.) 

This color-shifting, the dichroic effect, achieves two goals. First, it makes it easier for anyone to identify a fake bill simply by tilting it.  Second, its features are hard for counterfeiters to recreate.  Color-shifting effects are impractical to recreate using counterfeit copies produced by color copiers, printers and/or photographic equipment. Color copiers, printers and photographic equipment use pigments based on dyes having absorption. The printed colors can be insensitive to a change in the viewing angle.  


Pick An Apple

A collaboration between researchers at the USDA Agricultural Research Center and investigators at Michigan State University resulted in a patent application for a fruit harvesting system, an apple harvesting system.

(20210267125)  Dr. Zhaojian Li of MSU developed sensors, deep learning techniques on apple trees to enable this invention to find and pick the apples.

There is a need for robotic mass harvesting systems to tackle labor shortages, lower human injury risks, and improve the productivity and profitability of the fruit industry.  Here the inventors use cameras and automated vacuum-based process arms.  The invention locates an individual apple, detaches the apple from a tree, and deposits it into a collection apparatus without bruising the apple.  

Here is the patent drawing.

You can see the prototype in action here.

What’s Happening At the Y?

How USPTO’s classification staff determines which inventions may be beneficial in helping to mitigate the impact of climate change remains an enigma.  It’s hard to figure out the method to their madness.  While there are other applications that would seem to have earned a Y classification, we only found three new federally-funded applications this week with Y CPCs. 

ExxonMobile Research and Engineering Company and TDA Research are the applicants on 20210268474, "HIGH-PERFORMANCE CO2/H2O DISPLACEMENT DESORPTION SORBENTS AND METHODS OF MAKING SAME". Carbon capture and sequestration/storage (CCS) captures carbon dioxide (CO₂) formed during power generation and industrial processes and storing it so that it is not emitted into the atmosphere. ExxonMobil's greenhouse gas emissions have declined approximately 13 percent from 2011 to 2020. The Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory funded this research. In 2019, Exxon formed a research partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and is working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the National Energy Technology Laboratory to accelerate development of carbon capture and biofuels technologies. You can read about this work here.

 Engine No. 1 should be happy about this application. Engine No. 1 is an activist hedge fund that recently won three Exxon board seats on a clean technology agenda, pushing ExxonMobil to reconsider its role in a zero-carbon world,

NuScale Power, an Oregon-based designer of small modular nuclear reactors, received 20210271219, "SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR MONITORING A POWER-GENERATION MODULE ASSEMBLY AFTER A POWER-GENERATION MODULE SHUTDOWN EVENT". This invention is a new user interface for monitoring that streamlines and simplifies the process of monitoring critical power-generation module (PGM) parameters after a PGM assembly is shut down. The use of small nuclear reactors is another component of the US plant to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and to reduce GHG.  Nuclear reactors do not produce air pollution or carbon dioxide while operating.

The third federally funded patent application classified as beneficial to helping mitigate the impact of climate change (20210267962) is for a new treatment for Malaria. This vector-borne disease spreads faster in warmer climates.

The Intelligence Community has a slow week. The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) received a new patent for 3D imaging in machine vision (20210271854). 

Best of the Rest

Intel Federal filed a patent application for technology to add to its exascale computers (20210271536).  CORAL,  Collaboration of Oak Ridge, Argonne, and Livermore, funded this research.  CORAL is a joint procurement activity among three of the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories launched in 2014 to build state-of-the-art high-performance computing technologies essential for supporting U.S. national nuclear security.

Two of the leading scientists responsible for CRISPR inventions are inventors on new applications this week.  Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna, the winner 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is an inventor on  20210269782.  Dr. Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute is an inventor on 20210269866

Finally, there is an application from the Case Western Reserve University for a new method to deal with the biochemical recurrence of cancer (20210272694).  The team of inventors received funding from 14 government agreements from all four of the Health Complex luminaries — DOD’s US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC); the Department of Veterans Affairs; The Department of Health and Human Services (three of its NIH institutes) and the National Science Foundation.

The Innovation Agenda


In a memorandum to department heads, the Office of Management and Budget and the White House Office of Science and Technology told agencies that they need to consider the Biden Administration’s new R&D priority as they develop their 2023 budget.  These priorities include pandemic readiness and prevention; tackling climate change; emerging technologies; equity; national security; and economic resilience.

The memo noted that agencies should use their investments “to strengthen the public health system, with special attention to rural areas, underserved communities, and veterans and military health systems. They should build the data infrastructure, manufacturing and delivery capabilities, and workforce needed to support rapid and scalable public health responses domestically and globally.

Agencies should collaborate to promote world-leading research and innovation, boosting American industries and quality American jobs in critical and emerging technologies, including:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

  • Quantum Information Science (QIS) 

  • Advanced Communications Technologies

  • Microelectronics 

  • High-Performance Computing

  • Biotechnology,

  • Robotics

  • Space Technologies

Agencies should coordinate to leverage these technologies to ensure the sharing and use of the vast troves of Federal Government datasets to enable large-scale data analysis, and high-fidelity, high-resolution modeling and simulation to address critical challenges in public health climate science, and disaster resilience. Agencies should actively pursue public-private partnerships, as allowable, that will expedite American leadership in these technologies to grow our inclusive 21st-century digital economy. 

Agencies should prioritize fundamental and translational Artificial Intelligence research consistent with the Administration's priorities for robust, safe, secure, and privacy-preserving machine learning. Agencies should prioritize programs to deliberately address the hardest scientific and engineering problems facing the field in Quantum Information Systems. 

And Going

It's a challenging time on the DOD Digital Transformation front these days. First, the demise of the JEDI program — Amazon protested Microsoft's win. Then the protests for the new cloud infrastructure for the intelligence community — Microsoft is protesting Amazon's win. This week includes the exit of the Air Force Chief Software Officer who was running its DevSecOps initiative.  The exit came complete with a full-on inferno of the bridge on the way out.

One of the most critical digital transformation efforts across the Federal government was the Air Force Platform One DevSecOps and software factory approach of building new capabilities fast.  The DevSecOps initiative, led by Nicolas M. Chaillan, the Air Force’s Chief Software Officer.  

On August 31, 2021, Mr, Chaillan provided an update on the achievements of the DevSecOps initiatives.  Hours later, he tendered his resignation and published his going away letter on LinkedIn.   The short version is that he felt that his leadership didn’t walk the walk on transitioning to new technology.  The long version is that DOD is at risk, especially in light of the relentless array of new challenges and new technology and the possibility that the Chinese will eat our lunch if we continue down the current path.

"Please stop putting a Major or Lt Col. (despite their devotion, exceptional attitude, and culture) in charge of ICAM, Zero Trust, or Cloud for 1 to 4 million users when they have no previous experience in that field."

Change is hard at DOD.  It will be interesting to see where Mr. Chaillan surfaces next.


On Thursday, USPTO published 193 patent applications.  Taxpayer funding was cited on 193 of the applications. One hundred eighty-six (186) of the applications had government interest statements.  Twenty-eight (28) have a government agency as the applicant or assignee.  Federal departments are referenced 220 times.  

The applications are the work of 637 inventors.  The 616 American inventors come from 43 states and the District of Columbia.  The 21 foreign inventors come from seven countries. 

The HERD — Higher Education R&D — There are 120 patent applications with one or more colleges or universities as an applicant.  That number rises to 130 when you account for university-affiliated research institutes and hospitals.

The Health Complex— This week HHS was cited as a funding source on more than half of the applications published on Thursday.  There are 219 funding references to NIH institutes. 


Thank you for reading FedInvent.  Have a great Labor Day Weekend.  See you Tuesday.

The FedInvent Team

About FedInvent 

Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere from Federal R&D. FedInvent tells the stories of inventors, investigators, and innovators. We follow the taxpayer money and the inventions.