Defense Contractors Versus Hobbyists

One great perk of bothering to show up at The Atlantic's offices is that there's all this free food and soda available on the third floor. Another great perk is that there are lots of copies of National Journal's insiderish publications lying around and there's always some nugget of genius in them. Today's CongressDaily AM, for example, has a story by Megan Scully dealing with the rare intersection of defense policy and intellectual property policy.

It seems that over the past decade, defense contractors have started making the companies that make models of military equipment pay royalty fees to the contractors. Now, Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) is trying to get them some relief and has "convinced House Armed Services Chairman Skelton to insert a provision in the FY08 defense authorization bill that would require the Defense Department -- not the defense industry -- to issue trademark licenses for a 'nominal' fee." The defense contractors, naturally, are fighting back, both because of the money directly involved and also because they want to fight the broader issue of principle over who owns these designs -- the US military, or the defense contractors. I don't see any good policy reason to think the contractors should own the trademarks (innovation in military hardware design is obviously going to be driven by the Pentagon, not by derivative licensing income) but defense contractors rarely lose a battle, so I wouldn't be optimistic.