Improving DoD Intellectual Property Transactions through Game Theory

March 7, 2023

Dr. Ekundayo Shittu

Little research exists around the potential to apply game theory techniques and analysis to U.S. defense acquisitions with a substantial intellectual property (IP) licensing component. Dr. Ekundayo Shittu and Dr. Zoe Szajnfarber, Professors from the Engineering Management and Systems Engineering (EMSE) Department at GW, in partnership with collaborators at George Mason University, will be expanding this area of research by using their recently awarded one-year, $812,414 Department of Defense (DoD) grant to conduct the project, “AIRC Game Theory Application to DoD Intellectual Property (IP) Transactions.”

This study is supported through the Acquisition Innovation Research Center (AIRC), which is part of the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) managed through the University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) of the US DoD. The AIRC provides a collaboration platform for engaging stakeholders within the extended DoD Acquisition Enterprise, thought leaders from across the nation, and researchers across academia.

GW, through the EMSE Department, belongs to a network of institutions in the AIRC. This is strategically significant, Shittu explained, because there are tremendous opportunities for the faculty to contribute to the infusion of innovation at the DoD to better respond to rapidly changing threats and technological advances. GW’s share of this award at 67% is $543,000.

“One of the exciting things about doing research through the SERC/AIRC is the opportunity to engage deeply with problem owners so we can see how the research we do impacts their important work,” Szajnfarber stated.

The Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) is the problem owner for this project and their IP Cadre is interested in improving outcomes in DoD source selections and contract negotiations involving a substantial role for the acquisition of IP deliverables and license rights. The OSD IP Cadre believes that game theory has been studied regarding IP licensing transactions in general (e.g., commercial transactions), and game theory has been studied regarding defense acquisitions generally, but game theory has not been studied at the intersection of these disciplines. The primary focus of this project is to bridge this gap and investigate and apply game theory techniques to IP licensing in defense acquisitions.

However, the rules of engagement regarding IP rights in U.S. defense acquisitions are highly specialized and unique, and thus generally are poorly understood in DoD, industry, and academia; only larger traditional defense contractors tend to have a better understanding due to their devotion of significant resources to an area of strategic industry importance. Through meetings with the IP Cadre, the GW team made up of Dr. Shittu as the lead PI, Dr. Szajnfarber, the EMSE Chair, and Dr. Scott Kieff in the Law School, alongside their George Mason University colleagues, are developing an understanding of both the current system and these rules of engagement.

The conduit of collaboration are the unique features of IP rules of engagement in defense acquisition where the features of IP negotiation seem “poorly understood.” Understanding the rules of engagement regarding IP rights in U.S. defense acquisitions will support the development of game theoretic models where EMSE Professors have deep knowledge and expertise. This is vital to the team reaching their key objective of harnessing
mathematical and macroeconomic models to support the OSD IP Cadre negotiation processes from a quantitative and qualitative viewpoint.

“I have never been more excited to be a part of a process that offers real value in terms of actionable research outcomes,” Shittu said. “In the EMSE department, our objective is to influence policy and decision making as we explore our cutting-edge interdisciplinary educational and research programs. Ultimately, in this project, the evidence of successful IP approaches will be through affordability, sustainability, flexibility, and upgradability of the systems as well as supporting U.S. military technological superiority and security.”