* Recent findings by the National Institute of Standards and Technology could limit the scope of U.S. government rights to intellectual property, to the benefit of contractors.
Over the past year, NIST has studied strategies for maximizing innovation through government-funded research. In April, the organization published its findings in NIST Special Publication 1234, "Return on Investment Initiative for Unleashing American Innovation."
The report recognizes that "[s]ince the 19th Century, American economic prosperity and national security have been based upon innovation--the process of invention and commercialization of new ideas into products and services in the marketplace.... America's future competitiveness will be driven in part by our ability to capture the economic and national security benefits of emerging technologies."
NIST's findings are designed to inform future policy decisions throughout the federal government--including the Defense Department--in order to better pave the path between federally funded invention and marketplace commercialization.
These future policy decisions could have tremendous impact. The U.S. government invested approximately $150 billion in research and development in 2017 alone, representing about one-third of all U.S. R&D spending.
The NIST report presents 15 findings, organized under the umbrella of five strategies from President Donald Trump's initiative to promote economic growth and national security by improving the transfer of technology from federally funded R&D to the private sector.
The five strategies include: identifying regulatory impediments and administrative improvements in federal technology transfer policies and practices; increasing engagement with private sector technology development experts and investors; building a more entrepreneurial R&D workforce; supporting innovative tools and services for technology transfer; and improving understanding of global science-and-technology trends and benchmarks.
Federally funded inventions produced by contractors and grantees are subject to a government use license, which generally provides that the U.S. government has a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice the invention or have the invention practiced throughout the world by or on behalf of the government. Government use includes direct use by the agency for its own acquisition purposes, potentially even with a different contractor.
But questions have been...