CASTLE, Circuit Judge.
This matter is before the Court on the petition of Herbert L. Anderson for review of an order dismissing,
On January 23, 1958, petitioner filed an application with the United States Atomic Energy Commission, respondent, for an award under the Atomic Energy Act based upon certain unpatented discoveries and inventions in the field of atomic energy. The application set forth, among other things, that activities of the petitioner, in concert with other scientists, during 1939, 1940 and 1941, in the development of atomic energy, which were disclosed in substantial compliance with the Act, led directly to the proper design of a suitable lattice of uranium in graphite and the successful construction of the first chain reacting pile. The government filed a response in which it asserted that the application was barred by limitations.
It is not disputed that whatever rights the petitioner may have under the Act first accrued August 1, 1946, the effective date of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, which first made provision for the making of awards such as the one sought by the petitioner. The 1946 Act has been superseded by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The parties agreed that the limitations question be separately and first considered before the merits of the application would be reached. The Commission, in denying review, adopted the conclusion of its Patent Compensation Board that the application having been filed in 1958, more than 6 years after August 1, 1946, it is barred by the statutory limitation governing civil actions
The sole contested issue presented for our determination is whether an application for an award under the Atomic Energy Act based on an unpatented invention or discovery is subject to the six year limitation period prescribed by 28 U.S.C.A. § 2401(a).
The Atomic Energy Act, in relevant parts, (42 U.S.C.A. § 2187(b) (3) and (c) (2)) provides:
28 U.S.C.A. § 2401(a) provides:
Petitioner's application constituted a request for monetary compensation under that provision of the Atomic Energy Act by which the government undertook to provide the method of rewarding the makers of unpatented inventions and discoveries useful in the production or use of atomic energy. The conditions justifying or requiring the grant of an award are either expressly prescribed by the statute or necessarily implicit therein. Cf. Fletcher v. United States Atomic Energy Commission, 89 U.S.App.D.C. 218, 192 F.2d 29, 33. The proceeding is adversary in character only to the extent that compliance with the standards which measure eligibility to receive the intended benefit is to be tested. Read in conjunction with those provisions of the Act which necessarily limit the freedom of negotiation and exploitation of invention in the atomic energy field it is apparent that the award provision is designed to provide and maintain the incentive for private research in this area. Its purpose is to encourage and stimulate continued private research and activity in a field in which the government in the over-all public interest and for considerations of national defense has necessarily circumscribed the proprietary recognition usually accorded invention. Cf. Cyril E. McClellan, Docket No. 4, 1 C.C.H. Atomic Energy Law Reporter, p. 10,114.
The remedial nature and beneficent purpose of the award provision call for that liberal construction and application necessary to achieve the purpose for which it was enacted. The fact that in both the Acts of 1946 and 1954 the congresses which have been concerned with the fixing of the standards by which eligibility for an award is to be measured imposed no time limitation as a condition precedent to the making of an
The government concedes the 1961 amendment operates prospectively only and is therefore not applicable in the instant matter.
The government relies solely on 28 U.S.C.A. § 2401(a) to sustain the dismissal of petitioner's application. But we are referred to no precedent for applying the bar of § 2401(a) to an administrative proceeding, as distinguished from a court action, much less to a proceeding designed for the purpose of rewarding past achievement and encouraging future effort — not one necessarily concerned with the redressing of a legal wrong, the fixing of compensation for property taken, or the assessment of a legal damage sustained. The government points to no legislative history which is indicative of Congressional intent that § 2401(a) apply to the administrative proceeding here involved.
The government's contention in the main seems to be that Congress might have vested jurisdiction of applications for such awards in the Court of Claims and in that case a six year limitation on the filing of the application would have applied. 28 U.S.C.A. § 2501. But Congress did not so choose, and we are not persuaded that the failure of Congress to so utilize the facilities of the Court of Claims affords any reason for concluding that § 2401(a) is applicable. Definitive limitation periods or conditions precedent may be desirable, but they are not necessary. Congress may create a right without a time limitation in which it must be exercised. Cf. Holmberg v. Armbrecht, 327 U.S. 392, 66 S.Ct. 582, 90 L.Ed. 743. In such case the doctrine of laches may have application if the equitable nature of the right and the facts and circumstances involved so warrant. We think the right created by the provision of the Atomic Energy Act relative to the granting of awards is based on equitable principles. The government through this provision sought to do equity.
Moreover, it is our opinion that the administrative character of the proceeding and the nature of its subject matter preclude the applicability of 28 U.S.C.A. § 2401(a). We are not here concerned with a "civil action" nor a "right of action" within the meaning and intent of those terms as employed in the context in which § 2401(a) appears — an enactment concerning court actions and parties thereto.
The order dismissing the petitioner's application is reversed and the matter is remanded to the Atomic Energy Commission for its further consideration and action.
Reversed and remanded.