In an academic setting, technology transfer is accomplished through licensing intellectual property to companies that have the resources and desire to develop and produce the technology for specific applications. In return, universities receive payments – such as cash fees, equity, and/or royalties on earned revenues – for the products or services that were licensed.
Prior to 1980, the United States government owned any invention discovered or created through the expenditure of federal funds. Resources for evaluating and patenting discoveries were limited and most federally funded discoveries were not commercialized.
In 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act gave non-profit institutions the right to elect title (i.e.: ownership rights) to their inventions that had been sponsored by federal funds, so long as these institutions agreed to pursue the development of the technologies. Under Bayh-Dole, Universities have certain responsibilities, including reporting inventions to the funding institution(s) in a timely manner, and sharing income from those inventions with the inventors.
The government retains certain rights, including a non-exclusive, irrevocable, “paid-up” license to practice the invention and the right to license the invention to third parties under exceptional circumstances, such as critical unmet public health needs.
To keep up with the extensive reporting requirements, and to ensure compliance with Bayh-Dole, most universities have established an office to coordinate technology transfer activities. At the University of Rochester, this office is URVentures.
In May of 2018 several important revisions to regulations of the Bayh-Dole Act went into effect. These changes to the Bayh-Dole Act affect all new funding agreements executed after May 14, 2018. Read the full text of the revisions here.