Technology transfer is a term used to describe a formal transfer of rights to use and commercialize new discoveries and innovations resulting from scientific research to another party. Universities typically transfer technology to industry for commercial development through the disclosure of innovations, patenting the innovation concurrent with publication of scientific research and licensing the rights to innovations. The definition has now expanded as today’s technology transfer professionals are responsible for a wider array of duties including corporate engagement, internal development of inventions, new company formation, and overall economic development.
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 (D-IN) and Robert Dole (R-KS).The Bayh-Dole Act was especially instrumental in encouraging universities to participate in technology transfer activities.
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 in very specific circumstances.