From Fri Jan 7 13:15:05 2005
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2005 07:59:57 -0600 (CST)
From: Edward Hammond <>
Subject: [NL CBW] GSN: U.S. Army Awaits Correction to Controversial
Article: 201145
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

U.S. Army Awaits Correction to Controversial Patent

By David Ruppe, Global Security Newswire, 5 January 2005

WASHINGTON—After more than a year, the U.S. Army is still waiting for corrections to a patent that critics say suggests the Army has developed an aerosol dispersion device in violation of international arms control treaties (see GSN, May 28, 2003).

The Army's patent (No. 6,523,478) was awarded in February 2003 for a “rifle-launched nonlethal cargo dispenser,” or a grenade intended to release aerosolized agents.

The patent, which appears on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site, said the device could be used to disperse aerosolized agents including “chemical agents” and “biological agents.” That and similar descriptions of its capabilities in the patent, experts have said, suggested the grenade was developed in violation of the Chemical and Biological weapons conventions and the U.S. Biological Weapons Antiterrorism Act of 1989. The latter two prohibit development of devices to deliver biological weapons agents.

The Sunshine Project, an arms control advocacy group, first called attention to the patent language, prompting the Army in May 2003 to say it erred and would seek to change the language.

A Defense Department spokesman at the time said references in the patent to biological and chemical agents were included “in order to be comprehensive and claim possible payloads as broadly and generically as possible.”

“It is clear now, in hindsight, that inserting the term chemical or biological ‘agents' was unfortunate,” he then said.

A “certification of correction” was filed with the Patent Office in June 2003 “deleting the four instances where the words ‘chemical agents, biological agents' appeared in the patent language,” Army spokeswoman Joan Catherine Michel of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Maryland said in an e-mail last month.

She wrote, though, that the Army had not yet received a “certificate of correction” from the Patent Office and has requested a status report.

The Patent Office “told us the Certificate of Correction we submitted was currently with their contractor. We simply don’t have any control over the process once it is filed in the USPTO,” she said.

The Sunshine Project noted in a November release that the language had not been changed.

“The grenade and patent continue to violate U.S. legal obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) which forbid, in very strong terms, any development of delivery devices for biological weapons,” the group said, and called on the government to abandon the patent and end work on the device.

“You change the patent claim, that doesn’t change the fact that it was developed to deliver chemical and biological weapons,” said Sunshine Project director Ed Hammond.

His concern is that the device might be used to deliver nonlethal incapacitating agents, the legality of which has been debated by arms control experts.

Army spokeswoman Michel said the device is intended to disperse “obscurant material” on the battlefield for “degrading enemy surveillance sensor capability.”

“We take our compliance with the CWC and other international treaties very seriously. Rest assured, the work at ECBC [Edgewood] (including this device) is strictly in line with our defensive mission,” she wrote.

The patent does not specify a particular intended use for the device. Instead it said there is “a need” for a device to efficiently and rapidly disperse numerous munitions, including obscurants and chemical and biological agents. —

“Thus, what is needed is a method to readily manipulate the [Ebola] genome.”

—Kawaoka, et al., US Patent Application 20030215794, 20 Nov 2003

Another fine product brought to you by the US Biodefense Program.