"They stole all my stuff and used taxpayer money to do it," John Hnatio, a Maryland small business owner, says of the U.S. government.
Hnatio claims the government has put his company, FoodquestTQ, nearly out of business by stealing his firm's software that was designed to be licensed to the Food and Drug Administration to monitor food safety.
The FDA "took our ideas, plagiarized my doctoral dissertation on which a patent was based, and then they infringed on our patent. The result was that it decimated our business," he adds.
Hnatio says his company has been left hanging by a thread. He has had to fire employees and says that the remaining three, including himself, are receiving no salary and have been forced to go on unemployment insurance.
"I have never seen anything like it," says Hnatio, who is a retired federal government official.
He says the FDA "duplicated exactly what we were selling to industry and they were giving it away for free...instead of helping small business commercialize their product, what we are seeing is a dragon, in the name of the U.S. government that is eating their own young."
FoodquestTQ is only one of numerous small businesses that accuse the government of stealing their intellectual property or trade secrets when they enter into contracts or research agreements with federal agencies.
"The government interceded, stole the technology and attempted to use this in classified programs," says Jim O'Keefe, the president of the small New Jersey technology company Demodulation. He has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the U.S. government, accusing it of taking his firm's research.
Demodulation developed an advanced technology involving fiber coated wire, called microwire, which is thinner than a human hair. The company says its microwire can be used for a variety of national security applications, such as tracking drones, keeping tabs on soldiers on battlefields, transmitting information without a power source, and that it even has the ability "to render objects invisible to radar."