Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Bayh-Dole Act

In the popular "Open Page" section of the Hindu (24 Jul 2011), there was recently a piece by S. Vaidhyasubramaniam, titled, "IT IS TIME WE REWROTE INDIA'S RESEARCH STORY".

The article presented various ratios and numbers to show how poorly India compares with the rest of the world in terms of research productivity. Nothing new here...but what caught my interest was a glowing reference to a legislation in USA - the  Bayh-Dole Act of 1980.

This single Act is said to have "unlocked" lab research in US, by permitting public-funded projects in universities and non-profit organizations to own patents to their inventions. As a result, university patents jumped from 200 in the pre-1980s to the 1600s in the 1990s.

The Act was the culmination of long drawn efforts, starting from 1968, by many non-profit organizations, led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison. They successfully lobbied for agencies (Health & Human Services & NSF) to enter into Institutional Patent Agreements (IPA), which, among other things, allowed universities and non-profits with approved patent policies to retain title to their inventions. The Act was finally passed in 1980.

According to the Economist, since 1980, American universities have witnessed a tenfold increase in the patents they generate, spun off more than 2,200 firms to exploit research done in their labs, created 260,000 jobs in the process, and now contribute $40 billion annually to the American economy. Some examples: MRI body scanning, the vaccine for hepatitis B, the atomic-force microscope and even the technique behind Google's search engine!

Wonder if there have been any efforts to come up with something similar in India...


Vaidhyasubramaniam, S (2011): IT IS TIME WE REWROTE INDIA'S RESEARCH STORY; The Hindu 24 Jul 2011 - http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/article2288196.ece

Innovation's golden goose (The Economist, 12 Dec., 2002) - http://www.economist.com/node/1476653?Story_id=1476653

Intellectual property: Baying for blood or Doling out cash? (The Economist, 20 Dec., 2005) - http://www.economist.com/node/5327661?story_id=5327661&no_na_tran=1

The Law of Unintended Consequences (Fortune, 19 Sep 2005) - http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2005/09/19/8272884/index.htm

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