of the public’s stakes. Although the Act is effective in its primary purpose, successive administrations have not maintained an effective framework for government oversight, failing to assign oversight responsibility clearly; describe its components; and to establish a comprehensive, accessible data collection system to support it.

As discussed in Chapter 2, the Bayh-Dole Act, at 35 USC Sec. 206, authorized the Department of Commerce to develop and, if need be, revise regulations to implement sections 202-204, and report annually to Congress on federal technology transfer activities. In addition, Department of Commerce representatives have served on an interagency working group on technology transfer and, on occasion, have reviewed agency Determinations of Exceptional Circumstances (DECs) with a view to encouraging consistency. The General Accounting Office (GAO) described this as a “coordinating” role.137 Within the Department of Commerce, these functions have been reassigned several times, ending up in 2007 delegated to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology has twice recommended that this function be upgraded and expanded.

Recommendation 14: There should be a clear assignment of federal government oversight responsibilities, perhaps by Executive Order, including

  • ensuring consistent implementation of federal technology transfer laws by all agencies;

  • reviewing agency diligence and actions with respect to DECs, government use rights, and exercise of march-in rights;

  • revisiting the Department of Commerce regulations implementing several provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act, including the conditions for access to and use of data gathered about inventions;

  • heading an interagency committee on technology transfer that would, for example, evaluate and develop a government-wide position on proposed changes to the Act or system; and

  • reviewing with other agencies and with representatives of research universities and relevant professional groups the data that should be collected from universities.

    To play an effective role, the oversight unit needs to extend its outreach not only to other federal research agencies but also to the university research community.

Effective oversight also depends on the availability of relevant data, and here there is an even more glaring deficiency. The Bayh-Dole Act requires institutions to provide data on actions with respect to federally funded


United States General Accounting Office. 1998. Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division, Technology Transfer: Administration of the Bayh-Dole Act by Research Universities. Washington, DC. RCED-98-126.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement