Technology Transfer:

Federal Agencies' Patent Licensing Activities

RCED-91-80: Published: Apr 3, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 3, 1991.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the patenting and licensing activities for fiscal year (FY) 1981 through FY 1990 of 12 federal agencies and 16 Department of Energy contractor-operated laboratories.

GAO found that: (1) 12 federal agencies and 16 contractor-operated laboratories filed 15,669 patent applications, received 11,075 patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and received $37.5 million in license income from FY 1981 through FY 1990; (2) the percentages of licenses requiring royalty payments increased from less than 50 percent in the beginning of the decade to 95 percent in FY 1990; (3) patent licensing income increased from $348,000 in FY 1981 to $5 million in 1986 and $9.4 million in 1990; (4) the Patent and Trademark Amendments' lengthened time for negotiating license agreements may discourage businesses from seeking licenses for government-owned inventions; (5) licensing officials noted an increase in Freedom of Information Act requests for documents on licensees' invention commercialization plans and progress reports; and (6) only three agencies made information readily available through computerized databases to companies interested in commercializing an invention.