Navy’s changes in education could have intellectual property implications

The Navy secretary wants the service's schools to research with industry.

The Navy is refocusing at least one of its major educational institutions to make it more focused on research to provide the service with scientific and innovative brainpower that will work in conjunction with industry.

The Naval Postgraduate School, headquartered in Monterey, Calif., will soon serve as a research institution that works with private companies, said Navy Secretary Richard Spencer during a Thursday speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

That will be in addition to its mission as a professional educational school.

The transition is part of a larger review of the Naval education system, which Navy Undersecretary Thomas Modly directed back in April.

The purpose of changing the school’s mission is to make the Navy more valuable to itself and to private business.

“When I go out to speak to some of my old venture capital friends from my previous career they say two things,” Spencer said. “One, could you please stop the venture capital tourism? Admirals and generals sitting in beanbag chairs of my portfolio companies and thinking they are innovating does not do anything for me or for them. Please stop that.”

Spencer said the second thing he hears is that the Navy and venture capitalists need to figure out how they are going to have a relationship going forward.

That’s where Spencer got the idea for making the postgraduate school something more than just a school.

Even though the Defense Department and the military services have the Defense Innovation Unit, the Strategic Capabilities Office and other programs to call on Silicon Valley businesses, Spencer said he thought there were other avenues to build trust.

“What better way to really start to cement relationships than to research together,” Spencer said. “And research together with the concept of having a Stanford Research Institute (SRI) model.”

The SRI model refers to developers of a product both inside and outside government benefiting from their work by owning or profiting off intellectual property.

“People inside government can actually be compensated in some form or another for the work that they do,” Spencer said. “I ran this by seven primary providers on the west coast. Every single one to a ‘T’ said, ‘I’m in.’ In fact, the Microsoft CEO turned around and sent us a message and said, ‘If you give me three research projects right now, I will resource them with people that I have and the resources we have. Let’s get them going.”

Spencer mentioned he would need legislative authority for the idea, but he’s not the only one who is in favor of it.

Army acquisition chief Bruce Jette is also in favor of changing the way the military services handle intellectual property.

“Most people don’t realize it, but the government can get paid for their intellectual property,” he said earlier this year. “So I want to make sure that we both treat each other honestly and fairly.”

Jette said he’s also in favor of licensing products from industry and letting companies keep their intellectual property and then having the government develop what it needs to make that product fit its needs.

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