Bayh-Dole allows academic grantees to patent federally-funded research for purposes of promoting the commercialization of this research. To ensure commercialization goals are achieved, the Act requires grantees to report to funding agencies not only the existence of federally-funded patents but also utilization efforts they and their licensees/assignees are making.
Although reporting is a cornerstone of accountability under Bayh-Dole, information about grantee compliance with reporting requirements is incomplete and dated. In fact, the last significant study of the question dates back to the late 1990s and analyzes only 633 patents. Since that time, concerns have emerged that federally-funded university patents are being asserted improperly against independent commercializers or even assigned to so-called “patent trolls.”
This article provides fresh evidence indicating substantial under-reporting of the existence of federal funding in over 30,000 academic biomedical patents issued between 1980 to 2007. The article finds substantial under-reporting of federal funding even in the case of patents on FDA-approved drugs, which should presumably receive significant attention from universities.
Grantees’ failure to report federal funding suggests similar, or even more significant, noncompliance with requirements to report utilization information. However, compliance with reporting requirements on utilization cannot be assessed because of secrecy associated with relevant government databases. Accordingly, the article makes a fresh argument that the Commerce Department, which has the requisite regulatory authority, work with funding agencies, to improve transparency. Greater transparency would not only motivate grantees to improve reporting but would also allow assessment of whether grantee patent management is actually achieving Bayh-Dole's utilization goals.