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Compliance: Technology Transfer

Landmark Law Helped Universities Lead the Way

According to the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), "the Bayh-Dole Act fundamentally changed the nation’s system of technology transfer by enabling universities to retain title to inventions and take the lead in patenting and licensing groundbreaking discoveries.

Enacted on December 12, 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act (P.L. 96-517, Patent and Trademark Act Amendments of 1980) created a uniform patent policy among the many federal agencies that fund research, enabling small businesses and non-profit organizations, including universities, to retain title to inventions made under federally-funded research programs.This legislation was co-sponsored by Senators Birch Bayh of Indiana and Robert Dole of Kansas.The Bayh-Dole Act was especially instrumental in encouraging universities to participate in technology transfer activities.

The Act is "perhaps the most inspired piece of legislation to be enacted in America over the past half-century," according to The Economist. "Innovation's Golden Goose," an opinion piece published in the Dec. 12, 2002, edition the respected publication, states: "Together with amendments in 1984 and augmentation in 1986, this unlocked all the inventions and discoveries that had been made in laboratories throughout the United States with the help of taxpayers' money. More than anything, this single policy measure helped to reverse America's precipitous slide into industrial irrelevance."

Major provisions of the Act include:

  • Non-profits, including universities, and small businesses may elect to retain title to innovations developed under federally-funded research programs

  • Universities are encouraged to collaborate with commercial concerns to promote the utilization of inventions arising from federal funding

  • Universities are expected to file patents on inventions they elect to own

  • Universities are expected to give licensing preference to small businesses

  • The government retains a non-exclusive license to practice the patent throughout the world

  • The government retains march-in rights.

Title 37 - Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights (Code of Federal Regulations) (PDF 2.27MB)

Bayh-Dole Talking Points (provided by the Association of University Technology Managers)