Patent

Special Interests are Watching Academic Tech Transfer

The original motivation for the Bayh-Dole Act was to encourage the commercialization of academic innovation so that new technologies could be available for the benefit of all. Yet today, I feel compelled to call attention to a compliance landscape that is significantly different than that of the past four decades—one that could have dire consequences for institutions if they choose to be complacent. Not only do sponsoring agencies have an interest in how tech transfer complies with Bayh-Dole regulations, other entities have entered the competitive landscape looking for opportunities to turn lack of compliance to their advantage. In just the past two years we’ve seen a spike in requests for the government to exercise march-in rights by a variety of non-governmental advocacy groups (NGOs). These NGOs are staffed by PhDs who are well-versed in the academic tech transfer ecosystem and they actively seek out pockets of non-compliance. An attempt is then made to extricate key technologies using non-compliance as a lever and the NGOs become the primary influence on how innovation is put into the marketplace. I would ask the question, “Who will pick up on these inventions?” If you follow this chain of events we may find ourselves in a situation where innovation is not freely available to all (the original intent of Bayh-Dole) but an endpoint where NGOs and their backers control how technologies get into the marketplace.

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