Birthday Messages

Were it not for Bayh-Dole hundreds of MIT technologies would not have been commercialized for the benefit of mankind – estimated to have created 400,000+ jobs in the US. If I were to pick one example that would resonate with everyone it is the following. In 1993 when the US was creating the standard for high definition TV, MIT designed a TV that won a competition sponsored by the FCC. MIT’s ownership in the intellectual property in that TV enabled MIT to insist that the TV standard would be compatible with computers over strong objections from the TV industry. MIT’s success in that argument enabled many features of TVs that we take for granted today as well as the ability to watch TV on computers and other devices. In essence, we can use a TV as a computer and a computer as a TV. The implications are enormous and enabled hundreds of new business opportunities ranging from APPs to content providers.

John T. Preston, former Director of Technology Licensing at MIT and founder of TEM Capital.

Here’s one of our most recent examples of the transformative powers of the Bayh-Dole Act: Virtual Incision Corporation, a startup that spun out of an innovative collaboration between two campuses in the University of Nebraska system.

With funding from the DOD and NASA, Shane Farritor, PhD, a robotics engineer in Lincoln, and Dmitry Oleynikov, MD, a surgeon from the University’s medical campus in Omaha, developed miniaturized surgical robots that could transform open surgeries into minimally invasive procedures. In addition to dramatically reducing recovery time, the technology would also help make surgical procedures more accessible to underserved areas like rural communities or even low-earth orbit and beyond. Virtual Incision’s robots have the power to turn virtually any room into an surgical suite, and potentially provide any patient access to any surgeon in the world.

Michael Dixon, PhD, President and CEO UNeMed Corporation, Univeristy of Nebraska Medical Center

After education and research, MIT views public benefit as a primary responsibility – more important than optimizing direct benefit from royalties. During my tenure overseeing MIT’s intellectual property we often utilized B-D to optimize the benefit to society. One example was in the 1980s when we developed and patented a fundamental invention for using windows in computer operating systems. The manifestation of this invention was a UNIX program called X-Windows. MIT knew that this fundamental patent was going to be important, but rather than license it to optimize royalties, we structured an agreement with the 10 largest computer/software companies to standardize on our software in exchange for a free license to everyone. This royalty free license enabled rapid development of software functionality in the 1990s (windowing is everywhere today). Such enlightened behavior would be unlikely with Govt ownership of the invention.

John T. Preston, former Director of Technology Licensing at MIT and founder of TEM Capital.

As the Bayh-Dole Act turns 40, it is a good time to reflect on how far we have come as a nation, academic community and technology transfer profession. Looking at both statistics and inspiring stories, it is clear that the Act has had a tremendous impact on the well-being of Americans and the entire global community as a catalyst that brought a long pipeline of innovation into public use and lifted economies in countries that have passed similar legislation. The Act has made universities and teaching hospitals key, indispensable partners in transforming scientific outcomes into inventions, products and services and facilitating their identification, protection, development, and transfer to new and existing companies large and small. As for those of us who, in the 1980s, stumbled into this new and fascinating career, well, I can only say it has been sheer joy to work with amazing and creative academic investigators in this fascinating intersection of technology, business, and law. It is a great blessing to go to work every day and learn something new, be confronted by challenging and meaningful problems, and see your efforts, both individual and collective, pay off in the long term.

Thanks, Birch Bayh and Robert Dole for making the world a better place.

Fred Reinhart, Senior Advisor for Technology Transfer at UMass Amherst

At the time before Bayh-Dole was passed, there were relatively few universities actively encouraging companies to consider university research findings as sources of their future competitiveness. As a university licensing person, I found that my call to a company officer about a new technology was their first contact from a university. Because of the published arguments presented in favor of the bill and its strong support from Congress, other universities quickly began licensing programs and the competitiveness of US industry rapidly surged.

Niels Reimers, Founder and Former Director of Stanford University’s Office of Technology Licensing