Federal Agencies' Policies and Practices Are in Accordance With Patent and Trademark Amendments of 1980

Gao ID: RCED-85-94 August 29, 1985

As required by the Patent and Trademark Amendments of 1980, GAO reviewed federal agency actions to implement the act's guidelines which establish a uniform patent policy for assigning titles to inventions of small businesses and nonprofit organizations under federally sponsored research projects. In 1983, the President directed federal agencies, to the extent permitted by laws, to adopt the same policies for all contractors as well as for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. In addition, the Department of Commerce was made responsible for reviewing exceptional circumstance determinations and informing agency heads if any determination was contrary to the act.

GAO found that: (1) all of the research and development agencies have revised their procurement regulations to include the titling provisions for allowing contractors and grantees, regardless of size, to retain title to inventions; and (2) Commerce has developed an annual voluntary reporting system for nonprofit organizations to use when reporting an invention and is fulfilling its role of monitoring federal agencies' implementation of the act. Some agencies had to issue waiver regulations to allow businesses not covered by the act, especially large businesses, to retain title to inventions. GAO also found that officials at some agencies and trade associations had mixed perceptions as to whether the legislation had caused any change in small businesses' and nonprofit organizations' research and development activities. However, officials of two other agencies and two interest groups believed that small businesses and nonprofit organizations have begun reporting more inventions because: (1) the act has given the groups an incentive to perform research work; and (2) invention ownership is an important factor when applying for federal funds.

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