An Army official on Tuesday explained the main principles underpinning the service’s new Intellectual Property (IP) Strategy.
Alexis Lasselle Ross, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Strategy and Acquisition Reform, explained previously the service shifted between two divergent approaches: either they would seek as much IP as possible or limit how much IP it has to obtain at all.
The first strategy was expensive and hard to operate while the second locked the Army into long term cost arrangements with original equipment manufacturers, Ross said while at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event.
The Army announced its new IP policy last December. At the time, the service said this was meant to settle differences over data rights with industry to allow officials to gain access to a capability’s technical data while providing companies with opportunities to negotiate IP rights (Defense Daily, Dec. 14, 2018).
Ross noted IP is the “lifeblood of industry” but the Defense Department also uses weapons for decades and needs some IP access. This strategy seeks a middle path between the two previous extremes.
She said the four main principles of the policy are: developing a custom IP strategy going into acquisition, negotiating tailored custom IP licenses, having the acquisition community negotiate and set IP prices early in the process to get the best prices, and fostering early communication with industry and fostering safe IP.
Ross noted the policy hopes to provide the workforce with the tools to better navigate the complex IP landscape and help balance both Army and industry interests.
She explained implementation of the policy also involves a four-pronged approach.
First, the Army is establishing a temporary virtual team of subject matter experts across the Army who work on IP daily. This includes legal, contracting, sustainment, and contract management officials.
Then that team will be asked to help flesh out the implementation guidance. The service released an explanatory guidance for the policy, but needs to make sure program officers and other officials understand the intentions and best way to utilize that on a day to day basis in the field.
The Army also has a pathfinder program demonstrating the new policy on four programs to learn how it works in practice and improve upon it. The Army expects to revise the guidance every one to two years with a compendium of “tricks of the trade,” Ross said.
The subject matter expert team will help the programs by assisting them develop strategies tailored to the specific programs and assist solicitations to industry, she said. The Army looked for a good sample set of models that are still early in their timeline, require commercial systems and thus IP negotiations, and wanted at least one software intensive program. They also looked at having programs with non-traditional pathways like middle tier acquisition authority or Other Transaction Authority.
Ross cited a desire for non-traditional programs using cross-functional teams where the acquisition, science and technology, and other communities work together.
The chosen model programs are the Next Generation Squad Weapons rifle replacement, Precision Guidance Kit Anti-Jam, Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk, and Integrated Visual Augmentation System augmented reality goggles.
The last phase of the program is increasing training and then implementation of the plan. Ross noted not everyone in the Army is a licensed patent attorney, so training is important.
Over time the Army will take into account what programs will lead to additional training.
Ross elaborated that the Army chose the FLRAA because it is not easy to find such a large program at the outset of these cycles. The Army wanted a model program early enough in the process that it had not conducted too many negotiations with industry yet and still had to decide on specific vendors to be ultimate equipment manufacturers.
Likewise, the rifle replacement program was chosen because it is not very commercial, will have unique military specifications and will not overlap a great deal with commercial off the shelf products. Ross said the Army often leads the market on small arms that later enter the commercial market but this allows some basic IP negotiations.