A limitation on what can be patented is imposed by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Section 151(a) (42 U.S.C. 2181(a)) thereof reads in part as follows:
No patent shall hereafter be granted for any invention or discovery which is useful solely in the utilization of special nuclear material or atomic energy in an atomic weapon.
The terms “atomic energy” and “special nuclear material” are defined in Section 11 of the Act (42 U.S.C. 2014).
Sections 151(c) and 151(d) (42 U.S.C. 2181(c) and (d)) set up categories of pending applications relating to atomic energy that must be brought to the attention of the Department of Energy. Under 37 CFR 1.14(d), applications for patents which disclose or which appear to disclose, or which purport to disclose, inventions or discoveries relating to atomic energy are reported to the Department of Energy and the Department will be given access to such applications, but such reporting does not constitute a determination that the subject matter of each application so reported is in fact useful or an invention or discovery or that such application in fact discloses subject matter in categories specified by the Atomic Energy Act.
All applications received in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are screened by Technology Center (TC) work group 3640 personnel, under 37 CFR 1.14(d), in order for the Director to fulfill his or her responsibilities under section 151(d) (42 U.S.C. 2181(d)) of the Atomic Energy Act. Papers subsequently added must be inspected promptly by the examiner when received to determine whether the application has been amended to relate to atomic energy and those so related must be promptly forwarded to Licensing and Review in TC work group 3640.
All rejections based upon sections 151(a)(42 U.S.C. 2181(a)), 152 (42 U.S.C. 2182), and 155 (42 U.S.C. 2185) of the Atomic Energy Act must be made only by TC work group 3640 personnel.