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Mar 08, 2006

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This one appears quite old, but it could just be a wedgie in the USPTO database, given the dates of the cited prior art: 5,570,648

U.S. Patent 6,097,812 filed 7/25/1933 issued 8/01/2000

Plus there are a bunch of patents published in the 1990s with misprints indicating filing dates in the first decade of the 20th century (1905, etc.)

Could it have been subject to a secrecy order, and not a true submarine?

I believe that it would indeed have been subject to a secrecy order, based on subject matter and date.

Given the current administration's attitude towards secrecy, particularly the recent revelation that they've been reclassifying docs from the National Archives, we shouldn't expect any more patents like this to issue for a few years.

Does the fact that it was ordered secret by the PTO mean that it is not a "submarine?"

Dennis, I think the method of metaphoric submerging and resurfacing has to be considered when deciding to label a patent a submarine. If this patent was the subject of a secrecy order then it was not the inventor's or assignee intent to prolong or delay the issue of the patent for their gain. Considering this is cryptography patent filed prewar with the US Government as assignee suggests this was subject to a secrecy order. I recall another WWII-era patent which issued around 2001 in the field of radar that did have its issuance held up by a secrecy order.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,405,412 issued in 1995 and still in force, shows a filing date on its face of April 11, 1915. (This is a typo; it was filed in 1994.)

But is it valid? This looks a lot like an Enigma machine, which was in use more than a year before applicant filed. I can't recall if the 102b criterion back then was one year or two, but "The Enigma was used commercially from the early 1920s on, and was also adopted by the military and governmental services of a number of nations — most famously by Nazi Germany before and during World War II." See Wikipedia entry:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enigma_cryptography_machine

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