As is discussed above in this chapter, structural change in the U.S. R&D system has expanded the importance of licensing transactions involving intellectual property, and the committee believes that these transactions play an important role in photonics innovation in particular. Further evidence of the increased importance of licensing transactions and patented intellectual property in general is provided by the America Invents Act (Public Law No. 112-29), which was signed into law on September 16, 2011. This act, which represented the first comprehensive overhaul of U.S. patent policy in decades, was intended in part to improve the quality of patents granted by the U.S. Patent Office and included steps to further harmonize U.S. patent policy with that of other nations.
As the discussion of lasers pointed out, U.S. universities have long been an important source of ideas and discoveries in the broad field of photonics. In many ways the role of U.S. universities in the U.S. photonics industry appears to be more significant than is true of university research in the photonics industries of other nations. The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 (Public Law No. 96-517) was passed with broad bipartisan support in order to catalyze the commercialization by U.S. firms of U.S. universities’ research advances, and in the wake of the act’s passage, U.S. university patenting has grown. Many if not all U.S. research universities have established campus offices of technology licensing to oversee the patenting and licensing to industry of research advances.39 In the case of the photonics industry, universities have clearly over the last four decades been playing an expanding role in early-stage R&D. For example, there has been an increase in the percent of overall publications in optoelectronics with at least one academic author over the four decades between 1967 and 2007.40
The expanded licensing activities of U.S. universities have also attracted considerable criticism from at least some sectors of U.S. industry, notably firms in information technology. R. Stanley Williams of Hewlett Packard, a firm with a long history of close research collaboration with U.S. universities (and a firm active in photonics research and innovation), stated in testimony before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space:
Largely as a result of the lack of federal funding for research, American Universities have become extremely aggressive in their attempts to raise funding from large corporations. . . . Large U.S. based corporations have become so disheartened and
39 Although lacking precise data, the committee believes that university-licensed intellectual property has been an important source of innovation in the U.S. photonics industry.
40 Doutriaux, T. 2009. “The Resiliency of the Innovation Ecosystem: The Impact of Offshoring on Firms versus Individual Technology Trajectories.” Work toward a Master’s Thesis. Advisor: E. Fuchs. Pittsburgh, Pa.: Carnegie Mellon University.