The Unsung Heroes of AUTM Advocacy

Mike Waring
AUTM Advocacy and Alliances Coordinator

While Congress and the Administration get much of the advocacy attention in Washington, federal agencies and federal courts also have the power to impact the success of technology transfer offices in carrying out their missions. AUTM’s Public Policy Legal Task Force plays a crucial role in our ability to advocate for tech transfer with those agencies and courts as well as Congress and the White House.
With research dollars coming from numerous federal agencies, the way those agencies determine the rules for overseeing that research and the benefits of it is very important. Short-sighted policies can empower federal overseers to make our work in technology transfer difficult if not impossible to carry out.
At the same time, federal courts deal with a wide range of issues that affect tech transfer – particularly intellectual property. The decisions made by district courts, appeals courts and the US Supreme Court can have a huge impact on our ability to use the patent and copyright systems in a positive way. Indeed, numerous recent Supreme Court decisions have thrown a monkey wrench into efforts to protect or adjudicate patents, especially with regard to the patent eligibility of certain types of innovations.
Given the importance of federal agencies and the courts, AUTM relies on a strong system to advocate for our issues. At the center of that system is the Public Policy Legal Task Force (LTF). Under the leadership of Sheila Kadura of The University of Texas System, the LTF meets monthly to review various issues and to work on such things as potential comments for agencies or requests for AUTM to join amicus briefs on key court cases. Made up of about a dozen lawyers, the LTF is an important bulwark for ensuring AUTM and its Members have a voice for tech transfer.
In recent months, the LTF has weighed in on the Artificial Intelligence request for information from the US Patent and Trademark Office. The group also reviewed joint comments from AUTM, the Association of American Universities and the Council on Government Relations filed in regard to potential further action by the International Trade Commission relating to the use of TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waivers for COVID-related therapeutics and diagnostics. In the comments, the associations laid out a strong case for the Biden Administration to withhold support for any further such waivers.

Several years ago, the LTF also played a huge rule in AUTM’s filing of voluminous comments related to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Green Paper, which involved a complete overview of the Bayh-Dole statute and possible ways it could be strengthened or modified. Many of AUTM’s comments were used by NIST in the final version of the report.
As with anything involving the law, members of the LTF need to avoid any sort of conflict of interest between AUTM actions and any client-related activities they undertake. The attorneys in the group come from a variety of backgrounds, but all are very involved in understanding how these regulatory and court actions can have a major effect on tech transfer.
Paired with the AUTM Public Policy Advisory Committee, which monitors legislative and regulatory developments that could impact innovation, AUTM continues to ensure that the voice of tech transfer is heard in Washington.