“Protection” of inventions in Bayh-Dole

Twitter thread:

Federal patent law uses “protect” with respect to inventions only in Bayh-Dole’s strange definition of invention at 35 USC 201(d): “is or may be patentable or otherwise protectable under this title” What does it mean to “protect” an invention?

“otherwise protectable” implies that “patent” as a matter of law is a form of “protection” A patent grants the patent holder with respect to practicing an invention (i) the right to exclude others and (ii) the right to require compensation. So what is the *protection*?

But wait, there’s more! Bayh-Dole’s policy requires the patent system to be used to *promote the utilization* of inventions arising from federally supported research or development. 35 USC 200. This is a working requirement that applies only to Bayh-Dole inventions. Continue reading

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Another question on RE: When does Bayh-Dole not apply?–6

To get at subject inventions, we will cover some of the same ground as that series of RE articles on subject inventions, but from a different angle. Bayh-Dole’s contracting provisions do not apply if an invention made under federal contract is not a subject invention. Most importantly, Bayh-Dole does not apply if an invention made under contract is not owned by a party to the funding agreement. Other federal laws or contracting requirements may apply, but not Bayh-Dole.Let’s say that Bayh-Dole does operate and (in a parallel universe) folks want to comply with (and enforce) the standard patent rights clause. For that, we must look at Bayh-Dole’s definition of subject invention.

Remember, here, “invention” has Bayh-Dole’s definition–a patentable or maybe not patentable invention or a plant variety (which is clearly not patentable) or something otherwise protectable (or not) under the federal patent statute. The “subject” in “subject”  invention means, roughly, “an invention that is subject to a federal claim of ownership under federal statute or executive branch patent policy operating through a patent rights clause in a funding agreement.”

Bayh-Dole’s policy statement (35 USC 200) applies to all inventions (as Bayh-Dole defines them) arising from federally supported research or development. That broad policy statement (not merely an objective), as part of federal patent law, sets the bounds for the property rights in patents on such inventions (see 35 USC 261).

Bayh-Dole’s contracting provisions (35 USC 202, 203, and 204) apply to subject inventions only. Bayh-Dole’s standard patent rights clause is restricted to implementing 35 USC 202, 203, and 204 (see 35 USC 206). So those contracting provisions apply only to subject inventions, not any inventions, not even any patentable inventions made under federal contract. All that disclosure and elect to retain title and filing patent applications and other fussy stuff has to do with subject inventions.

No matter what else, an invention cannot be a subject invention until it is owned by a party to the federal funding agreement–owned by a contractor. Continue reading

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Another question on RE: When does Bayh-Dole not apply?–5

We are working through when Bayh-Dole does not apply.

Bayh-Dole doesn’t apply to works of authorship or copyright or data or data rights or know how or trade secrets (except to keep trade secrets secret even when the trade secret involves the terms of a license with the government) or trade marks or trade names or mask works or software. Bayh-Dole doesn’t apply to federal funding agreements that are not for research, experimental work, or development. Applies to funding agreements primarily for education or training only to assert that it doesn’t apply other than that assertion. Doesn’t apply to stuff that’s determined to be not patentable (except for plant varieties), nor to stuff that that’s not made with federal assistance. For that matter, Bayh-Dole does not apply to universities, other nonprofits, or small businesses–Bayh-Dole applies to federal agencies, specifying what federal agencies must do with contracting for inventions and licensing of inventions. So Bayh-Dole doesn’t apply to anyone else.

Bayh-Dole engages contractors by means of its patent rights clauses, which are placed in federal funding agreements. When a contractor chooses to accept federal assistance under a funding agreement for research, experimental, or developmental work, a Bayh-Dole patent rights clause comes along. The patent rights clause is conditional. It applies when there is a subject invention. A contractor turns an invention into a subject invention by taking ownership of an invention made under the funding agreement. A contractor may add parties to the funding agreement by any assignment, substitution of parties, or subcontract of any type. So a contractor may also make inventors parties to the funding agreement. Then the inventors are also contractors. When they invent, they own their inventions. Those inventions then are also subject inventions. Got it?

Continue reading

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Another question on RE: When does Bayh-Dole not apply?–4

Now that you have a better idea about Bayh-Dole and have done some thinking about why someone might want it Bayh-Dole to apply and others might not want it to apply, let’s work the definition of invention (at 35 USC 201(d)):

The term “invention” means any invention or discovery which is or may be patentable or otherwise protectable under this title or any novel variety of plant which is or may be protectable under the Plant Variety Protection Act (7 U.S.C. 2321 et seq.).

This is actually a problematic definition. Bayh-Dole is part of federal patent law, but federal patent law does not otherwise define invention. The point of federal law is to set out when someone may receive a patent on an invention that meets the law’s requirements for patenting, and what rights a person has who holds a patent. What matters is what is patentable, not the word for whatever it is that is patentable. Patent law concerns *the conditions on which one can get a patent*, not what defines everything  for which one might imagine getting a patent.

Bayh-Dole could be really simple:

If you decide to seek a patent, then specially report the discovery or invention on which you have based your decision.

No definition of discovery or invention is necessary. It’s whatever you define as the subject of your patenting effort. If a contractor doesn’t seek a patent, then the discovery or invention will be disclosed to the federal government as part of findings without any special hoo-haw about patentable inventing. But Bayh-Dole also adds authorization for federal agencies to deal in exclusive licenses–patent monopolies, if you wish–and that provides a motivation for attempting to capture everything that anyone at a federal agency (or someone in a company that has the ear of someone at a federal agency)–more than the inventor, or the contractor–might want the federal government to patent and so control exclusively.

Look at the logic of Bayh-Dole’s definition:

“invention” means both “patentable invention” and “not patentable invention” including “plant varieties” that may be protectable and may not be protectable, and anything else that is “otherwise” protectable under federal patent law (i.e., “this title”–title 35 USC) but not “patentable.”

If an invention “may be patentable” then the “may” also means that the invention might not be patentable, but patentability has not yet been conclusively decided, and so an invention comes within the scope of Bayh-Dole’s definition of invention whenever patentability has not been conclusively ruled out. That is, a final rejection of a patent application from the USPTO or a determination that an invention otherwise fails to meet the statutory requirements for patenting–directed to non-patentable subject matter, application filed after a statutory bar to patenting, and the like. But as long as someone thinks an invention may be patentable and hasn’t bothered to have a determination made otherwise, the invention clearly “may” be patentable–at least in the indecisive, non-authoritative mind of someone. Continue reading

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Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Invention Systems

A Dialog Concerning the Two Chief Invention Systems


Libero , Proprietario, Kissero

Kissero: Look! Here’s something I’ve done in my research!

Libero: Whoa! Very interesting! Was it done under our federal contract?

K: Yeah, I think so. During work hours, in the same subject area as our contract.

L: Okay–write up a report for the government.

K: This is pretty neat stuff.

Proprietario: Yup. But once the government gets it, they are free to tell everyone else. We need to act now to prevent others from using this stuff, given that once we report it to the government, we won’t be able to prevent others from knowing about it. We need to get a patent application filed asap. This is our one chance to stake out this territory. We will look bad if we let this slip away.

K: What good is a patent? Continue reading

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Another question on RE: When does Bayh-Dole not apply?–3

Back for more of when Bayh-Dole does not apply, I see. Well, let’s get serious about this.

Let’s look at the Bayh-Dole definitional cascade for subject invention. We worked through “invention”–strange, broad, both patentable and not demonstrably not patentable, except for plant varieties, which are demonstrably not patentable. But Bayh-Dole’s definition of “invention” is not what matters. What matters are the restrictions placed on invention in the definition of subject invention. Bayh-Dole’s general policy statement at 35 USC 200 concerns inventions “arising in federally supported research or development” and Bayh-Dole’s confidentiality provision at 35 USC 205 authorizes federal agencies to withhold from the public information disclosing any “invention in which the Federal Government owns or may own a right, title, or interest (including a nonexclusive license).” Bayh-Dole’s federal licensing requirements at 35 USC 207 concern “inventions in which the Federal Government owns a right, title, or interest.” 35 USC 208 authorizes the Secretary of Commerce to create regulations concerning the licensing of “federally owned” inventions, and 35 USC 209 specifies the management of such licensing.

Bayh-Dole takes some pains to distinguish subject inventions from other “inventions made in the performance of funding agreements” (35 USC 210(b)) and “inventions made in the performance of work under funding agreements” (35 USC 210(c)). Subject inventions are a carve out of not just the general category of inventions but also of inventions made in the performance of work under a funding agreement. Bayh-Dole’s contracting provisions–35 USC 202, 203, and 204–apply only to subject inventions. It is subject inventions that a contractor may continue to own if the contractor obtains ownership. It is subject inventions that must be disclosed. It is subject inventions for which a nonprofit or small company contractor must file a patent application.

If an invention is not a subject invention, then the portion of Bayh-Dole applying to federal contracting does not apply. So it is essential to understand what a subject invention is–because everything else is not. The definition of subject invention in turn involves a number of other definitions– invention/funding agreement/contractor/made. It’s not pretty. Let’s say that this ugliness is intended rather than is a defect. That’s how most features show up in statutory hell. Continue reading

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Another question on RE: When does Bayh-Dole not apply?–2

Let’s get into the details–dance with devils, reveal Bayh-Dole’s true character. Get some sympathy.

Let’s consider again that heading of Title 35 USC, Chapter 18:

“Patent Rights in Inventions Made with Federal Assistance.”

In Bayh-Dole, “patent rights” are restricted, relative to ordinary patents, “patent rights” includes contractor “rights to patent” relative to federal claims on that right, “patent rights” also includes the federal government’s right to grant exclusive licenses to inventions owned by the federal government; “invention” is broadened in weird ways to include non-patentable stuff, and “federal assistance” is really, really broad.

Bayh-Dole does four things:

authorizes as a default that nonprofit and small business federal contractors, if they acquire a covered invention, may, by timely disclosure and notice, preempt any claim of federal ownership to that invention.

establishes procedures by which federal agencies and new statutes can vary from this default.

authorizes federal agencies the right to grant exclusive licenses in inventions owned by the federal government and establishes procedures for federal licensing.

establishes the patent property rights in covered inventions, including imposing a working requirement for those inventions, whether owned by a contractor or by the federal government.

establishes the conditions upon which the federal government may receive a license to or ownership of a subject invention or require the licensing of a subject invention.

Bayh-Dole applies generally to inventions arising in federally supported research or development (35 USC 200), applies to rights to subject inventions acquired by nonprofit and small business contractors (35 USC 202(a)), applies to other federal statutes (35 USC 210), and applies to federal agencies (most everything else). Not in this list? Bayh-Dole doesn’t apply. Continue reading

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Another question on RE: When does Bayh-Dole not apply?–1

When does Bayh-Dole not apply?

Bayh-Dole is part of federal patent law, Title 35 USC, placed in Chapter 18 with heading “Patent Rights in Inventions Made with Federal Assistance.” Thus, broadly, we can expect that Bayh-Dole does not apply to non-inventions, to inventions for which there are no patent rights, to inventions not made with federal assistance.

Thus, Bayh-Dole does not apply to original works of authorship, not to copyrights, not data rights, not trade secrets, not gathered stuff, not ideas, not know how, not domain names or trademarks, mask works, experimental set ups, computer software. Not “intellectual property” in general, not even “intellectual property” made with federal assistance, not even inventions made with federal assistance that are excluded from Bayh-Dole’s scope, such as funding agreements not for research, experimental, or development work. Funding agreements where the primary purpose is training or education are within Bayh-Dole’s scope (see 35 USC 212) but Bayh-Dole then exempts such agreements from Bayh-Dole’s contracting provisions, and so Bayh-Dole doesn’t apply to inventions made with federal assistance under those funding agreements, even though it applies to those agreements.

That’s not quite it, but it is a good place to end for people who just want a sound bite. TL;DR. Heave ho, off you go.

Continue reading

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Another question on RE: Are data rights subject to Bayh-Dole?

Are data rights subject to Bayh-Dole?


Sigh. Yes, in a way.

Data rights generally involve the right to control disclosure and/or use of technical information generated within research, experimental, or development work. While some data may involve copyrights (as in selection and arrangement of data as an original work of authorship, or data that takes the form of drawings, photographs, or text that is otherwise covered by copyright), the primary method of establishing and controlling data rights is by means of trade secret, which involves information with economic value and that is not generally known to the public and for which the proprietor makes reasonable efforts to prevent public disclosure. Research data, upon creation/collection, is not likely to be publicly known, may or may not have economic value, and the means for preventing disclosure is typically by a non-disclosure agreement or is established by an implied duty of non-disclosure or by privilege (as in attorney-client privilege).

Does Bayh-Dole protect trade secrets? No, not directly, but generally Bayh-Dole restricts federal government disclosure of some information reported by contractors pertaining to subject inventions. Does Bayh-Dole deal in copyrights? No.

Contractors are not constrained by Bayh-Dole in their use or disclosure of data developed under federal contract, other than in two obscure circumstances for data essential to the practice of a subject invention: (1) the contractor has failed to disclose the subject invention or failed timely to achieve practical application and a federal  receives title to the subject invention–the standard patent rights clause stipulates that the contractor does not retain a non-exclusive license to practice the invention; and (2) a federal agency grants an exclusive license in that invention, following a march-in process, that conveys all rights in the invention to an exclusive licensee. In either case, the contractor would not have sufficient rights to use the data to practice the invention because the contractor would no longer have the right to practice the invention. But the contractor could still disclose the data and use the data for anything other than practicing the invention. But this is very obscure stuff, nearly pigs with wings. The general answer is “no” and you can stop reading now and go have a social life. Continue reading

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The consequences of Bayh-Dole non-disclosure of inventions, 3

Finally, we reach a non-empty consequence of an invention becoming a subject invention, even if not disclosed to the federal agency. This consequence has to do specifically with subject inventions made under the nonprofit patent rights clause. Bayh-Dole stipulates that each federal funding agreement will contain a standard patent rights clause. But there are three versions of this clause–one version for nonprofits, another version for small business contractors, and a third version for inventors treated as small business contractors. NIST has created a fourth version, taking up Reagan’s extension of Bayh-Dole practices to large company contractors–but botches this version because Reagan’s executive order cannot preempt federal law nor can it use Bayh-Dole to preempt federal law for contractors that are beyond the scope of Bayh-Dole.

Anyway, the general idea in Bayh-Dole is that contractors operate under the version of the standard patent rights clause that is appropriate to them. Thus, nonprofits have 37 CFR 401.14(a) thru (l), small business contractors have 37 CFR 401.14(a) thru (l) but not (k), and inventors as small business contractors have a subset of the small business contractor clause as set out at 37 CFR 401.9. The implementing regulations for Bayh-Dole stipulate that when a contractor adds parties to a funding agreement by subcontract, the subcontract’s patent rights clause takes the form appropriate to the status of the subcontractor. If the prime contractor is a for-profit and a subcontractor is a nonprofit, then the nonprofit subcontractor operates under the nonprofit version of the standard patent rights clause even though the for-profit operates under the for-profit version.

However, this is not the case when a nonprofit prime contractor adds parties to the funding agreement by assignment. Here Bayh-Dole is express that in this situation, the assignee must operate under the nonprofit’s patent rights clause. Once a subject invention is acquired by a nonprofit contractor, the nonprofit patent rights clause–and in particular paragraph (k)–applies to any assignee (35 USC 202(c)(7)(A)): Continue reading

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