University technology transfer is the process by which fundamental discoveries are moved from the laboratory into the commercial sector for development into beneficial products and processes. Technology transfer’s economic and social contributions to our nation were greatly enhanced by the enactment of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980, which allowed universities to retain the patent and licensing rights to inventions resulting from federally funded research. Bayh-Dole significantly increased and accelerated the transfer of university discoveries to the marketplace.
The products and processes that emerge from university technology transfer benefit the public in myriad ways, including by improving public health and contributing to U.S. economic competitiveness and global technological leadership. Since 1996, U.S. universities reported that their patents have contributed upwards of $1.9 trillion to our national economy and have supported 6.5 million jobs.
A primary mission of U.S. universities is to make new discoveries and ensure that they are available to benefit the public. Their paramount reason for securing and licensing patents is to ensure that university discoveries are developed into products and technologies that advance the public good. Patenting makes the early-stage inventions that universities usually produce more useful to companies that take the risk to license, develop, and market such discoveries.
The ability of university technology transfer to achieve its societal benefits depends on a strong patent system. Because the inventions emerging from university research tend to be early-stage, high-risk inventions, successful university technology transfer transactions require a patent system that protects such innovations. Without robust patent protections, licensees and venture capitalists will not take on the significant risk associated with investing in and developing such inventions.
Universities strongly oppose the abusive litigation tactics of patent trolls, who take advantage of the patent litigation system and seek to undermine its core purpose – to stimulate and protect innovation. For this reason, universities support legislation that would address patent troll abuses without weakening the U.S. patent system.
APLU will continue to work with Congress and the USPTO to develop carefully targeted legislation and executive actions that curtail abusive patent litigation while maintaining the strength of the U.S. patent system so the public can continue to benefit from university technology transfer.