Date: June 9, 2003
Source: SF Gate
Abstract: A new rifle-launched gas grenade, invented by the U.S. Army ostensibly for nonlethal crowd control, has created a stir because the patent filed on the technology claims that it can deliver chemical and biological agents, two payloads forbidden by international treaty and U.S. law.
Greg Aharonian, editor of the Internet Patent News Service in San Francisco,
helped stir the tempest last week by e-mailing selected portions of patent number 6,523,478, filed by the Army on Sept. 10, 2001, and granted by the Patent Office in February.
The patent describes how to create a "rifle-launched non-lethal" projectile to release aerosols "selected from the group consisting of smoke, crowd control agents, biological agents, chemical agents, obscurants, marking agents,
dyes and inks, chaffs and flakes."
A spokesman for the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center in Aberdeen, Md., which oversaw development of the gas projectile, characterized the affair as a misunderstanding caused by an overly aggressive patent attorney who added a few poorly chosen words.
"There was never any intent to use this for chemical or biological warfare agents," wrote public affairs officer Miguel Morales.
"The attorney and the inventors were simply trying to claim their invention as broadly as legally entitled," Morales wrote, adding, "It is clear now, in hindsight, that inserting the term chemical or biological 'agents' was unfortunate."
He said the Army is planning to change the patent language to delete any reference to chemical and biological material.
But UC Davis microbiologist Mark Wheelis, an arms control expert with the Federation of American Scientists, said he was not entirely satisfied with the Army's explanation.
Wheelis cited provisions in federal law, written to enforce international treaties signed and ratified by the United States, that make it a crime to "knowingly develop" a "delivery system for use as a weapon" that contains "biological agents."
"The DOD has a job to do here, not just reassuring the U.S. public but the international community, that it is not in fact trying to develop biological weapons," Wheelis said.
Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Don Sewell said via e-mail, "The Army and all other components of DOD have no plans, programs, or intentions to develop chemical or biological weapons prohibited by statute or treaty."
Sewell wrote that the patented technology was intended to give U.S. troops a way to create smoke screens to mask their positions "in dangerous, hostile urban settings."
Morales, the Army spokesman, said in addition to its combat uses, the rifle- fired gas projectile could have "wide potential applications" in hostage rescues and other situations in which law enforcement officials wish to avoid "permanent damage to individuals . . . (and) little or no collateral damage to structures, the environment and bystanders."
But Edward Hammond, a bioweapons watchdog with the nonprofit Sunshine Project in Austin, Texas, said the wording of the patent represents more than a semantic error.
Hammond said the Sunshine Project Web site lists a series of government- sponsored inventions that outline ways to solve the technical challenges of delivering a gas or aerosol payload in such a way that detonation of the warhead doesn't disperse the active ingredient.
He said that while he isn't sure the new patent contains enough detail to teach a terrorist how to build a biogrenade, he said that the mere use of words like "biological and chemical agents" in the application suggests Army scientists are unaware of treaty obligations."What's shocking here is that the claim went through," Hammond said, asking "What does that say to you if you're the Chinese or any of a number of other countries around the world?" (SF Gate, 2003).
Title: US Retains Illegal Patent On
Treaty-Violating Bioweapons Grenade
Date: November 30, 2004
Source: Sunshine Project
Abstract: The United States has not relinquished an illegal patent, granted in February 2003, on a long-range biological weapons grenade. In May of last year, the Sunshine Project revealed the patent (6,523,478), held by the US Army, and charged that the grenade violates the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The BWC, which meets next week at the United Nations in Geneva, prohibits development of bioweapons delivery devices "in any circumstance".
In the May 2003 uproar, covered in the scientific and mainstream press (see below), US officials suggested that they would alter the patent and claimed that they never intended to use the grenade for the purpose described in the patent document.
A year and half later, the biogrenade patent stands unaltered and no move has been made to withdraw it. The grenade and patent thus continue to violate US legal obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) which forbid, in very strong terms, any development of delivery devices for biological weapons.
The Sunshine Project returned to review the biogrenade case in preparation for next week's meeting of the Biological Weapons Convention. According to Sunshine Project US Director Edward Hammond, who reviewed US Patent and Trademark Office records, "We were appalled to discover that the US has done nothing to correct this unequivocal violation of its obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention. It seems that the US wants this bioweapons grenade, after all, despite what it says to the public."
In recent years, US compliance with the bioweapons treaty has repeatedly come into question, particularly in reference to US 'non-lethal' weapons and biodefense programs. "The Pentagon's refusal to terminate the biogrenade program is emblematic of the Bush administration's arrogant disregard for the BWC." says Hammond, "Here you have an indisputable violation that is public knowledge, yet the US has done nothing to bring itself into compliance. The US invaded Iraq in pursuit of phantom bioweapons yet, here at home, it brazenly develops them."
Action Demanded: In accordance with the BWC, the Sunshine Project calls upon the US government to immediately abandon all patents and patent applications related to this rifle grenade, to terminate all research and development of this rifle grenade, and to destroy any grenades that have been produced. A public commitment to quickly take these actions should be made prior to the commencement of the Meeting of States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention on December 6th.
The Biogrenade: US patent 6,523,478 is titled Rifle-Launched Non-Lethal Cargo Dispenser. Somewhat similar to a rocket-propelled grenade, except lacking its own propulsion, the rifle grenade is attached to the end of an assault rifle, such as an M-16, and launched by the force of firing a bullet. It has a range of approximately 150 meters. In claim five of the patent, and in the patent text, the development of the grenade for bioweapons is described and claimed. The patent be viewed here: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?patentnumber=6523478 Images of a smoke variant of the rifle grenade may be viewed at: http://www.sunshine-project.org/incapacitants/
Link to Other
While the biogrenade may deliver biological agents of any lethality, it is one
of many so-called non-lethal weapons designed for chemical and/or biological
agents that are being developed by the US. These include a
"non-lethal" (bio)chemical mortar round with a range of 2.5
kilometers, a 155mm "non-lethal" anti-personnel chemical round
(designated the XM1063) with a 15km range, and the smaller "Airburst
Non-Lethal Munition" (ANLM), designed for grenade launchers. For more
information on these and other US "non-lethal" weapons, see:
http://www.sunshine-project.org/incapacitants/jnlwdpdf/ (Sunshine Project, 2004).