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This article revisits the logical and empirical basis for current government patent policy in order to shed light on the competing interests at stake and to begin to assess how the system is operating in practice. Such an inquiry is justified in part by the significance of federally-sponsored research and development to the overall U.S. research effort. Although the share of national expenditures for research and development borne by the federal government has declined since 1980, federal funding in 1995 still accounted for approximately thirty-six percent of total national outlays for research and development' and nearly fifty-eight percent of outlays for basic research.' Federal policy concerning the allocation of intellectual property rights in the results of this research thus determines how a large portion of our emerging knowledge is disseminated and utilized. If we are mishandling intellectual property rights in the results of government-sponsored research, the public may be failing to get full value from its substantial investment of tax dollars in research.