AUTM Updates

AUTM Talks Federally Funded Capacity Building and More 

As one might expect, the highlights of AUTM CEO Steve Susalka’s latest trip to Capitol Hill included productive discussions with key Congressional staffers about AUTM’s position on timely issues related to patents and technology transfer. But there was also an unexpected highlight that underscored legislators’ appreciation for AUTM as an authority on TT and innovation.

Susalka and Mike Waring, AUTM’s Advocacy and Alliances Coordinator, had multiple goals when meeting with Congressional staffers last month. One goal was to discuss such topics as subject matter eligibility for patents, federally funded capacity building for technology transfer and the role of artificial intelligence in innovation. But another important goal, described in more detail by Waring in this week’s AUTM at the Capitol column, was to emphasize the unique perspective and value AUTM adds to any conversation about the innovation ecosystem.

Over time, as Susalka and Waring have cultivated relationships with like-minded Congresspeople and their staffers, AUTM has become a more active participant in policy discussions. And this time, Susalka was asked about the possibility of AUTM providing training for staffers needing a better understanding of the technology transfer process.

“This type of request really demonstrates that our advocacy efforts have been effective at the relationship level,” Susalka said. “It shows that legislators are not just hearing us, they’re also realizing that we bring an important perspective to policy-level conversations about innovation, intellectual property and technology transfer. And having a seat at the table is really a game changer for AUTM and our mission to support and advance technology transfer.”

Specific issues related to that mission that were discussed during the trip included:

Subject matter eligibility for patents
Susalka and Waring reiterated AUTM’s concern that high-profile court decisions involving 35 U.S.C. 101 (commonly referred to as “Section 101”) have created confusion related to determining patent eligibility, restricting inventors’ ability to protect their innovations. AUTM outlined its specific concerns in a 2021 response to a Request for Information from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Federally funded capacity building
Susalka and Waring heard support from both sides of the aisle for the National Science Foundation’s efforts to expand the technology transfer capacity of academic research institutions through its $60-million Accelerating Research Translation program. For institutions that meet the program’s eligibility requirements, applications are due by May 23. If your institution is not eligible, consider volunteering to review submitted proposals; complete a reviewer interest survey by May 15. 

Artificial intelligence and inventorship
USPTO issued a Call for Comment in February seeking stakeholder input on the current state of AI technologies and related inventorship issues, particularly the question of whether inventions made by humans with the assistance of AI are eligible for patent protection and the question of whether AI itself could be considered a joint inventor. AUTM’s Public Policy Legal Task Force is preparing a comment for review by the Board of Directors prior to the May 15 submission deadline.