Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Friday, August 26, 2016

Save Bayh-Dole

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of the Bayh-Dole Act to protecting intellectual property. For over thirty years, this legislation has cleared the path for entrepreneurs to commercialize patents developed by our tax dollars; without it, thousands of patents would go unused. Unfortunately, some now want to misuse a provision of Bayh-Dole to advance a political agenda.

The provision in question is called “march-in.” It allows the government to require the patent owner or exclusive licensee to issue a license to the patented invention. March-in was intended to apply only when the contractor violates particular conditions: not pursuing commercialization in a timely manner, neglecting public health or safety needs, letting the invention be made abroad, or failing to meet specified federal requirements. Liberal lawmakers and activists, however, want march-in for products that they think are overpriced, most notably prescription drugs.

Misusing march-in in this manner threatens the success of Bayh-Dole. The predictability the legislation provides for research, development, and commercialization would be sacrificed to political vendettas. March-in undermines the exclusive rights of a licensee to intellectual property. If used in this fashion, it would also be a  form of price control. Targeting pharmaceuticals only endangers medical innovation.

Bayh-Dole has been a great success for the whole economy: producing jobs, spurring innovation, boosting university research. Its integrity shouldn’t be surrendered for short-term political goals.

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