James Love asks why universities fail to report subject inventions.
The question might seem rather odd, because in practice Bayh-Dole has been construed to give university administrators incentives to expand the definition of subject invention and so claim anything and everything they can. University administrators viewed Bayh-Dole as giving them an end-run around university research policies. Those policies generally state that research contracts take precedence over patent policy inventor ownership rules–which at the time often favored faculty inventors. Thus, according to these university administrators, Bayh-Dole happily also preempted academic freedom, freedom of research, and freedom of publication–all things otherwise assured by university policy. University administrators did not have to change any policy–they just asserted that federal law required them to take ownership of any inventions with a whiff of federal support. Then they went back and made changes in university policies to bring the policies into compliance with federal law. It was all bogus–incompetence and clever malice all rolled up into one slime ball of self-interest. But that’s what we have. You can see why university administrators are pretty much the only folks in love with Bayh-Dole–oh, along with much of the pharmaceutical industry.
But Love reports that his organization (KEI) is finding numerous instances of non-reporting of what appear to be federally supported inventions made at universities. Here is a KEI “Briefing Note” that provides a bunch of information with regard to Bayh-Dole invention reporting.
So if Bayh-Dole offered incentives for university administrators to expand the definition of subject invention and report everything as a simple way to claim institutional ownership with the apparent power of federal law, why would administrators under report?
Here are some possible reasons why: Continue reading