The Patent and Trademark Amendments (Bayh-Dole) Act permitted federal agencies to grant licenses to small businesses and nonprofit institutions, including universities, for inventions made at government-and contractor-operated laboratories.69 The Stevenson-Wydler Act, passed the same year, formally made technology transfer from the laboratories to private industry a policy of the federal government.70 The legislation mandated that 0.5 percent of each laboratory’s budget be allocated for technology transfer and established budgets for information offices on laboratory products and services—known as Offices of Research and Technology Applications—at every government-operated laboratory.71 The 1984 National Cooperative Research Act limited potential application of antitrust laws for cooperative projects to encourage companies to collaborate in R&D.72

In 1986, the Federal Technology Transfer Act authorized the establishment of cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) between government-operated laboratories and industry.73 A CRADA is an agreement under which a private organization provides personnel, equipment, or financing for specified R&D activity that complements the laboratory’s mission. CRADAs are contractual agreements that include provisions for sharing intellectual property rights on inventions arising from them. (Separately, NASA has continued to enter into long-standing collaborative arrangements under the pre-existing authority of the 1958 Space Act.74) The Technology Transfer Act also established the Federal Laboratory Consortium to provide an interagency framework for technology dissemination.75

Executive Order 12591, issued in 1987, attempted to encourage the use of CRADAs by directing agencies to delegate authority for entering into these agreements to the laboratory and by issuing guidelines for the granting of intellectual property rights under such agreements.76 More recently, the 1989 National Competitiveness Technology Transfer Act extended authority for entering into CRADAs to contractor-operated government laboratories.

Examples of Technology Transfer from the Federal Laboratories

Some examples of government-industry technology transfer have proved of wide benefit to private industry. Most of these incorporated the criteria for successful transfer discussed in Chapter 1. In the biomedical sciences, the close and long-standing ties of NIH laboratories to the medical and health care sectors have helped establish the commercial biotechnology industry. NASA work on R&D in remote sensing, earth-orbiting satellites, and characterization of mechanical properties of high-strength metal alloys, among other programs, has also had some modest impact on the civilian technology base.

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