Patent Policy:

Recent Changes in Federal Law Considered Beneficial

RCED-87-44: Published: Apr 16, 1987. Publicly Released: May 20, 1987.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal agency implementation of three recent patent policy changes and their impact on universities, small businesses, and other nonprofit organizations.

GAO noted that federal agencies are in the process of implementing legislative amendments that: (1) change title rights to inventions that nonprofit organizations and small businesses develop with federal funds; (2) extend title rights to federal contractors to inventions they developed with federal funds; and (3) establish a Statutory Invention Registration (SIR) procedure to reduce the federal patent inventory. GAO found that implementation of these amendments was delayed because the Department of Commerce disagreed with the Department of Energy (DOE) over proposed regulations affecting DOE government-owned, contractor-operated facilities. GAO also found that: (1) the amendments have been significant in stimulating business sponsorship of university research and the removal of licensing restrictions on nonprofit organizations; (2) the Small Business Innovation Research program and lower maximum capital gains tax rates had an equal or greater impact on small business research and innovation efforts; and (3) DOE plans to issue a regulation establishing criteria and procedures for large business contractors to retain title rights to some or all of their inventions.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Energy should encourage the use of SIR by establishing annual percentage goals for using SIR.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense disagreed with this recommendation in agency comments and its 31 U.S.C. 720 response.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Energy should encourage the use of SIR by recognizing SIR in their incentive awards programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE Order 3450.1A on incentive awards was published for coordination. Comments on DOE draft Order 3450.1A on incentive awards are being reviewed before the final order is issued.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Energy should encourage the use of SIR by recognizing SIR in their incentive awards programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy incorporated SIR into its incentive award program through Civilian Personnel Instruction 451.9, dated August 11, 1988, and the Air Force incorporated SIR through Air Force Regulation 900-4, dated July 23, 1987. On May 31, 1989, the Office of the Judge Advocate General for the Army issued an interim memo incorporating SIRs in the Army's incentive award program.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Energy should encourage the use of SIR by establishing written criteria for determining whether to file for a patent or SIR.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army, Navy, and Air Force published interim criteria guidance on the use of SIR as of November 25, 1987. The Army plans to incorporate interim guidance into AR 27-60.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Energy should encourage the use of SIR by establishing written criteria for determining whether to file for a patent or SIR.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE issued an internal patent instruction on November 3, 1987, which established written criteria.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Defense and Energy should encourage the use of SIR by establishing annual percentage goals for using SIR.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE disagreed with this recommendation in its agency comments and 31 U.S.C. 720 response.

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      Challenges and Opportunities
      GAO-14-618T: Published: May 20, 2014. Publicly Released: May 20, 2014.

    Feb 7, 2014

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      Small Business Innovation Research:

      Data Rights Protections
      GAO-14-116R: Published: Nov 4, 2013. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 2013.

    Jul 19, 2013

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