Federal Patent Policy

Gao ID: T-RCED-87-26 June 11, 1987

GAO discussed its work on federal patent policy, focusing on the effects of recent patent law changes and the use of the statutory invention registration (SIR) procedure, which provides some patent protection for inventions at a lower cost than the patent procedure. GAO noted that it surveyed university and small business representatives and found that: (1) most believed that the patent changes had a moderate-to-significant positive impact on universities and small businesses; (2) the universities felt that the changes stimulated business sponsorship of university research; and (3) small businesses believed that other federal initiatives had equal or greater significance on small business research and innovation. GAO also noted that: (1) the SIR procedure does not allow inventors to exclude others from making, using, or selling their inventions; (2) no university, small business, or nonprofit organization has yet filed an SIR application, primarily because most organizations are not aware of the procedure; (3) universities are not likely to use the SIR procedure because they have less need for defensive patent protection; (4) small businesses are more likely to use their limited resources to pursue exclusive patent rights to their inventions; and (5) while Congress intended the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Energy (DOE) to make extensive use of the SIR procedure, DOD and DOE have not done so because of concerns over inventor morale and the cost of the SIR procedure. GAO believes that DOD and DOE should encourage the use of the SIR procedure.

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