When the Weapons Patents went online

On October 19th, 1998 the EPO put 30 million Patents online. On April 21th, 1999 the USPTO followed. These publications included thousands of weapons Patents.

(deutsche Fassung)

The European release is documentated in the Annual report 1998 of the EPO. It happened exactly 6 month after the german terrorist Organisation Red Army Faction (RAF) was disbanded. 35 month before Al-Qaeda launched its second Attack on the World Trade Center, September 11th, 2001.

Secretary of commerce, William M. Daley, unveiled free internet access on patents april 21th, 1999 at 9:30 a.m. Washington Time. See press release dating april 19th, 1999. Exactly 12 month after the RAF was disbanded. 29 month before Al-Qaeda launched its second Attack on the World Trade Center.

Access on weapons patents was given too late for the Red Army Faction. The RAF has been founded in 1970, 29 years before the USPTO opened pandora’s box. Its Founders were caught in 1972. The last Generation of RAF declared its dissolution on April 20th, 1998 (Source – german only). At that time patent documents mostly were exchanged by the means of paper and microfilm.

None of RAF’s crimes were related to instructions from patents. Who would imagine an Andreas Baader or an Ulrike Meinhof spending a visit to the Patent office in Munich – for the purpose of reading Weapons Patents?

Al-Qaeda committed its later crimes in a completely different situation. Mohammed Atta had access on a plenitude of weapons patents. Including weapons patents explaining the destruction of High rises made of steel by the means of Thermite.

I already discussed the hypothesis, Mohammed Atta may have been without access to the internet. (See my post Verschärftes #Neuland Szenario für Zerstörung des WTC, german only.) But that post was satirical. In 2013 the Internet has not been #Neuland (= unknown territory) in germany. Mohammed Atta has been quite regularly in the library of the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg to access the Internet. A librarian gave testimony to this fact. (Reference, german only: Spiegel.de).


  • When the US-Administration put the patents online, it wanted to promote growth and jobs, not crime. Possibly the risks and side-effects have never been discussed. A press release dating june 25th, 1998 explains the Administrations Motivation. It lacks any awareness to possible risks.
  • Early versions of this post highlighted the single event in April 1999, when the USPTO put a first big batch of patents online in full length. Access to bibliographical data (= Metadata) had been available earlier, apparently since 1994. Later I found the Paper Electronic Resources Reviews by Michael J. White. White wrote in 2006 „the creation of esp@cenet was a watershed event in the history of patents“.
  • The Annual Report 1998 of the European Patent Office confirms that esp@cenet went online in 1998. The report indicates that 30 Million Patents where put online in full text.
  • It seems that the creation of esp@cenet in 1998 indeed may have been more significant than the USPTO-releases on april, 21th, 1999. I assume the Thermite destructive device went online precisely on April 21th, 1999. That‘s why I choose to focus on this date. Both dates are well after the dissolution of the RAF. Both are well before Al-Qaeda launched its second Attack on the World Trade Center. So from my point of view, the distinction does not matter much.