Tom Schierlitz/Stone

The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which allows US universities and research institutes to patent and commercialize discoveries financed with federal funds, may inadvertently hinder scientific research and impede innovation, scientists and legal experts say.

The law (PL 96-517), the envy of many European universities, has been a powerful catalyst to spur product development from laboratory research. In FY2001 alone, more than 4,000 new licenses and options from 198 US universities, hospitals, and research institutes were issued. These licenses brought in nearly $1.1 billion (US) in royalties, with life science patents generating the lion's share of revenues for universities and research centers.1

University and government officials have been concerned for some time over how best to patent and commercialize discoveries while keeping research tools and information flowing freely.2 But now researchers and legal experts are raising new concerns as legal disputes, and the potential for vast monetary...

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