The Assistant Secretary of State (Castle) to the Under Secretary of State (Cotton)
Mr. Cotton : Mr. Hurley, Assistant Secretary of War, had a conference with me Monday on the matter of certain British patent claims. He brought with him Colonel McMullen, who has been handling claims in the War Department and I called in Mr. Vallance who has handled them for us under Hackworth. Most of the British claims have been settled, as you probably know, under the Dent law.59 The Judge Advocate General of the Army holds, however, that these so-called patent claims are not covered by the law. Mr. Daugherty, when he was Attorney General, also ruled that they were not so covered. There are 16 of these claims for the use by the American Army and Navy of certain British inventions patented in England but not in this country. According to the statute of limitation I suppose we are not bound any longer to pay any of the claims, but I feel strongly that they should be paid as a matter of grace if we can arrive at proper amounts. Mr. Vallance says that he has no sympathy with them because we did not pay our own Army people for inventions made by them which were used by the United States. I told him that I did not agree with this since it seemed to me that an invention made by an American Army Officer, for example, which might help in winning the War was owed by such an officer to the Government without compensation, but that, on the other hand, a British officer did not equally owe his invention to the American Government. I pointed out also that American inventions used by the British have been paid for. Colonel McMullen said that he felt we could get out of the whole business at not over $250,000. In all cases arrangements for the use of these inventions were made with the British Government as General Pershing refused to deal with individuals. In most cases, also, the British are unable to claim any specific amounts because they do not know to what extent the invention was used. In one case at least there was a definite contract that we would pay 6 d. for every British made Brodie helmet used. How we have got out of paying that I do not know except that we have just not done it. The decision of the Conference was that I should find out from the British Ambassador whether the British would be willing, for the sake of getting the matter cleaned up, to give a definite understanding that findings made in the individual cases by the American [Page 55] Government would be final. This same arrangement60 was made in the so-called Bowling claims and there was not any trouble. If the British will make this agreement, the War Department will get authority from the President for Colonel McMullen, possibly with one or two assistants, to secure from the various Departments the papers necessary to make a real estimate of the claims. After the amount has been made up, it will be referred by the Secretary of War, and presumably by the Secretary of the Navy, to the President for reference to Congress. Of course, we cannot promise that Congress will be willing to appropriate the money, but judging by the past I think Congress would act favorably. It is certainly a strong argument that similar claims on the part of America have already been paid by the British.