Medical Innovation Depends on Bayh-Dole’s IP Protections
In this age of polarization, it’s almost impossible to imagine Congress enacting bipartisan legislation that would benefit businesses, higher education, and consumers alike. But that is exactly what happened 40 years ago, and it is worth remembering. As has been outlined elsewhere on IPWatchdog in 1980, Democrat Senator Bayh and Republican Senator Dole wrote a bill that seemed simple, but changed the face of American innovation. Prior to the Bayh-Dole law, anyone who accepted government funding of their research had to give any resulting patent rights to the government. Superficially, that sounded fair – if taxpayer money paid for research, the taxpayer should get the benefits. But the reality was that no one benefitted. Few companies had any interest in investing the substantial resources necessary to transform an early invention into a product when the underlying patents were held and controlled exclusively by the government. And those inventions that were developed simply sat on the shelf in government offices with no plans to bring them to market. Senators Bayh and Dole recognized this problem and their bill allowed research institutions to keep possession of the patent rights their research produced.