Cover: The Role of Intellectual Property in U.S. Homeland Security

The Role of Intellectual Property in U.S. Homeland Security

Published Sep 19, 2019

by Geoffrey McGovern, Maria McCollester, Douglas C. Ligor, Sheng Tao Li, Douglas Yeung, Laura Kupe


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Research Questions

  1. What is the connection between IP functions and missions of DHS and its component agencies?
  2. How and when does IP support, enhance, and otherwise provide essential elements of mission success?
  3. In what situations do shortcomings in the IP support system reveal weaknesses or inefficiencies in DHS and component operational activities?

Intellectual property (IP) consists of intangible creations of the human mind that are entitled to legal protection. IP includes inventions, works of art, and written products. A host of protections, including copyright, trade secret, patent, and trademark, support the defense of creators' rights and facilitate the distribution of the creations into the broader world.

IP lawyers work to ensure that their clients' IP assets are protected, distributed, and enhanced. They also work to ensure that their clients abide by IP laws when using others' creations (i.e., copyright infringement or other misappropriations). The dual nature of IP efforts — the proactive and the defensive — gives IP attorneys a unique position to guide, enhance, and achieve organizational goals. Given that the speed of technological innovation has led more organizations to rely on an array of technical and software-based systems and solutions, IP is an increasingly important component of mission success.

Researchers assessed IP support at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its components and found that IP initiatives offer greater opportunities for operational improvement than DHS currently recognizes. The research revealed several IP issues that expose programs to substantial risk.

The authors believe that the current funding and organization of IP activities do not serve DHS's long-term interests and that DHS should manage IP as an element clearly connected to organizational success. They also provide some alternatives that DHS might consider.

Key Finding

The current funding and organization of IP activities do not serve DHS's long-term interests

  • DHS underutilizes IP as a strategic asset that can reveal new strengths and weakness in department programming, help actively manage mission risks, and help position the department as an innovative agency that both creates and deploys IP and technology more broadly in service to the United States.


  • DHS should consider alternative approaches to funding and organizing IP functions to better include IP management as an element more closely connected to organizational success.
  • As it begins Invention Secrecy Act reviews and as increasing reliance on technology drives IP closer to the forefront of decisionmaking, DHS should reevaluate both funding and organization to best meet the needs of programs, components, and the department overall.

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of General Counsel, Technology Programs Law Division, and conducted by the Acquisition and Development Program of within the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC) federally funded research and development center (FFRDC).

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.