Energy Management:

Effects of Recent Changes in Department of Energy Patent Policies

RCED-87-5: Published: Dec 31, 1986. Publicly Released: Feb 11, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed various changes in Department of Energy (DOE) policies relating to the retention of patent rights to inventions developed at government expense.

GAO noted that: (1) it could not precisely evaluate how the new DOE patent policies would affect commercialization of inventions, competition in the marketplace, and mission-related work at DOE facilities, because DOE had not implemented them yet; and (2) the policies' effects on competition and on contractors' performance of mission-related work were unclear, because DOE was still developing procedures and controls. GAO found that: (1) the DOE practice of requiring contractors who operate DOE facilities to obtain approval before taking title to individual inventions delayed contractors' ability to commercialize some inventions and may have dissuaded contractors from requesting title to inventions; and (2) the policies' effects on contractor performance of mission-related work would depend on the financial rewards that contractors and their employees receive from commercializing inventions and the effectiveness of DOE controls to prevent financial incentives from adversely affecting facility operations. GAO also found that: (1) DOE has the flexibility to establish royalty provisions for inventions it licenses; and (2) under a planned arrangement, DOE would provide a contractor with an advance waiver covering many inventions, with the contractor retaining the royalty funds for technology transfer.

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