Tensions are brewing in the defense contracting business over government efforts to secure rights to manufacturers’ intellectual property. The clash pits military buyers who want to break up suppliers’ monopolies against companies whose livelihood depends on keeping tight control over their designs.
With the Defense Department under pressure to slash costs as budgets shrink, officials are targeting weapons programs for potential savings. They are particularly keen on reducing the cost of weapons maintenance and production by opening up the market to new competitors.
To do that in a market that is dominated by single-source manufacturers, the Defense Department needs what is known as “rights in technical data.” When the Pentagon buys a weapon system, it retains unlimited rights to the data if the item was designed with government funds. But when a product is financed by a private company, the firm keeps full control of the intellectual property and the government is simply a buyer.
Except in limited circumstances, contracting officials cannot disclose a private company’s proprietary data outside the government.
As the Pentagon in recent decades has become more dependent on the private sector for high-tech equipment, it now realizes that many of the existing arrangements restrict the government from seeking competing bids for maintenance or production of that equipment unless the manufacturers grant data rights. For most suppliers, that equates to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Keep reading this article at: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2014/January/Pages/DoDClashesWithSuppliersOverDataRights.aspx