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Federal policy since 1980 has reflected an increasingly confident presumption that patenting discoveries made in the course of government-sponsored research is the most effective way to promote technology transfer and commercial development of those discoveries in the private sector. Whereas policymakers in the past may have thought that the best way to achieve widespread use of government-sponsored research was to make the results freely available to the public, the new propatent policy stresses the need for exclusive rights as an incentive for industry to undertake the further investment to bring new products to market. Although this propatent policy may make a good deal of sense for some government-sponsored discoveries, there are reasons to suspect that it makes little sense for others. In our eagerness to avoid the inadequacies of the public-domain approach, we may have moved too quickly and too emphatically in the opposite direction, to the point that patent rights in some government sponsored discoveries may actually be undermining, rather than supporting, incentives to develop new products and bring them to market. It is time to reevaluate the role of patents in technology transfer-on the basis of more than a decade of actual experience rather than uncorroborated fears-and consider how the present system might be improved.