Bayh-Dole Act

Landmark Law Helped Universities Lead the Way

The Bayh-Dole Act fundamentally changed the nation’s system of technology transfer by enabling universities to retain title to inventions and take the lead in patenting and licensing groundbreaking discoveries.

Enacted on December 12, 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act (P.L. 96-517, Patent and Trademark Act Amendments of 1980) created a uniform patent policy among the many federal agencies that fund research, enabling small businesses and non-profit organizations, including universities, to retain title to inventions made under federally-funded research programs. This legislation was co-sponsored by Senators Birch Bayh (D-IN) and Robert Dole (R-KS).The Bayh-Dole Act was especially instrumental in encouraging universities to participate in technology transfer activities.

The Act is "perhaps the most inspired piece of legislation to be enacted in America over the past half-century," according to The Economist. In "Innovation's Golden Goose," an opinion piece published in the Dec. 12, 2002, edition, the respected publication states, "Together with amendments in 1984 and augmentation in 1986, this unlocked all the inventions and discoveries that had been made in laboratories throughout the United States with the help of taxpayers' money. More than anything, this single policy measure helped to reverse America's precipitous slide into industrial irrelevance."

Major provisions of the Act include:
  • Non-profits, including universities, and small businesses may elect to retain title to innovations developed under federally-funded research programs
  • Universities are encouraged to collaborate with commercial concerns to promote the utilization of inventions arising from federal funding
  • Universities are expected to file patents on inventions they elect to own
  • Universities are expected to give licensing preference to small businesses
  • The government retains a non-exclusive license to practice the patent throughout the world
  • The government retains march-in rights in very specific circumstances

Bayh-Dole Talking Points
Over the years, various groups have expressed support or questions about the Bayh-Dole Act. The AUTM Public Policy Committee has tried to compile some of that information into one document of talking points that you may wish to use when speaking with senior university management, legislators, the media, and the general public. We recommend adding another page that highlights the specific successes generated by your organization and have provided some ideas on what you could include.

Other Countries with Similar Bayh-Dole Legislation:









South Africa



South Korea



United Kingdom



AUTM Has Long Advocated for the Bayh-Dole Act

December 12, 2010 marked the 30th anniversary of the Bayh-Dole Act. This legislation changed fundamentally the way America develops technologies from federally funded university research and effectively secured the country’s leadership position in innovation. AUTM joined forces with the Association of American Universities, BIO, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the American Council on Education to celebrate the Act and communicate its value. The Bayh-Dole Act 30th Anniversary Event was held Dec. 1 at the Washington Convention Center.

The first half of the event included remarks from original congressional sponsor of the Act, Sen. Birch Bayh. Other notable speakers included Sharon Barner, Deputy Director, USPTO and William Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland. Patient advocate Betsy de Parry spoke of her diagnosis of an incurable form of follicular non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2002, de Parry talked about the life saving treatment, radioimmunotherapy (RIT), that was co-developed at the University of Michigan. "It was the Bayh-Dole Act that enabled them to turn their discovery into a life-saving treatment that has given many lymphoma patients back their futures," said de Parry.

de Parry presented awards for Outstanding Contributions to American Innovation to Senators Bayh and Dole. Michael Connor, partner, Alston & Bird, accepted the award for Sen. Dole, who wasn’t able to attend the event.

Sen. Bayh presented The Driving Innovation Award to Howard Bremer, Ralph Davis and Norm Latker for their work in drafting the Bayh-Dole Act. The Bayh-Dole 30th Anniversary Award was presented to Joseph Allen for his work over the past 30 years as a champion for the Bayh-Dole Act.

"Without Senator Bayh's and Senator Dole's foresight and commitment to this great nation, not only would the technology transfer profession exist as it does, but countless companies and products like Flumist, the nicotine patch, once-a-day HIV medication and the HPV vaccine might also not be here to help countless lives in our nation and around the world," said AUTM President Ashley Stevens, D. Phil. (Oxon), CLP.

Former Rep. Jim Greenwood, CEO of BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) moderated the second half of the event, a panel discussion among business, university and policy leaders which included Sharon Barner, Deputy Director, USPTO; Sen. Bayh; Betsy de Parry, Patient Advocate; William E. Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland; and Bart Newland, Biogen.

Ultimately, it is believed that these improvements in government patent policy will lead to greater productivity in the United States, provide new jobs for our citizens, create new economic growth, foster increased competition, make government research and development contracting more competitive, and stimulate a greater return on the billions of dollars spent each year by the government on its research and development programs
Senate Judiciary Committee Report, Dec. 12, 1979, on S.414, unanimously approved and reported to the Senate


...the preponderance of the empirical evidence produced to date seems to suggest that, by vesting presumptive patent ownership in the recipients of federally funded genetic research, the Bayh-Dole Act is indeed achieving not only its statutory purpose but also the larger, constitutionally mandated requirement that the U.S. patent system promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts.
The Impact of the Bayh-Dole Act on Genetic Research and Development: Evaluating the Arguments and Empirical Evidence to Date


For me, Bayh-Dole Act is the most important business legislature of the last century in the United States. And this is American Congress at its very best moment. It delivered through legislature and transformed the pace of innovation by providing a fluidic system that enhances U.S competitiveness.
Dr. Ndubuisi Ekekwe | Nkpuhe- a revelation on Africa