Technology Transfer: Agencies' Rights to Federally Sponsored Biomedical Inventions
The Bayh-Dole Act gives federal contractors, grantees, and cooperative agreement funding recipients the option to retain ownership rights to inventions they create as part of a federally sponsored research project and profit from commercializing them. The act also protects the government's interests, in part by requiring that federal agencies and their authorized funding recipients retain a license to practice the invention for government purposes. GAO examined (1) who is eligible to use and benefit from the government's license to federally funded biomedical inventions, (2) the extent to which the federal government has licenses to those biomedical inventions it procures or uses most commonly, and (3) the extent to which federal agencies and authorized federal funding recipients have actually used or benefited from these licenses. GAO focused its work on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH commented that the report implies that the government's right to use its license is more limited than it actually is. GAO recognizes that the right of federal agencies and their funding recipients to use a federally funded invention is unrestricted. However, GAO believes that these license rights can be used only to meet needs that are reasonably related to the requirements of federal programs.