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The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 established a new default rule that allowed nonprofit organizations and small businesses to own, as a routine matter, patents on inventions resulting from research sponsored by the federal government. Although universities helped get the Bayh-Dole Act through Congress, the primary goal, as reflected in the recitals at the beginning of the new statute, was not to benefit universities but to promote the commercial development and utilization of federally funded inventions. In the years since the passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, universities seem to have lost sight of this distinction. Their behavior as patent seekers, patent enforcers, and patent policy stakeholders often seems to work against the commercialization goals of the Bayh-Dole Act and is difficult to explain or justify on any basis other than the pursuit of revenue.


Posted with the permission of MIT Press. The original version is available on the Daedalus website.