Somewhat lost in the media coverage last week of former Senator Bob Dole’s death at age 98 was the most important accomplishment he ever had in terms of technology transfer and commercialization.
As this article notes, Dole and Senator Birch Bayh “were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, clashing on many issues. But when they discovered that billions of dollars of taxpayer-supported R&D was being squandered because the incentives intended by the patent system to spur commercialization had been destroyed, they formed an unlikely partnership to overhaul the system.”
The result of their collaboration was Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. Again, verbatim from the article, the measure was “the first pro-patent legislation to emerge from Congress in many years. It decentralized technology management from the Washington bureaucracy into the hands of those academic institutions and small companies which made inventions with government support. It restored the incentives of patent ownership, laid down a few rules and got Washington out of the way. Bayh-Dole helped spark a miracle as the U.S. economy recovered from the doldrums of the 1970s with one of the greatest bursts of innovation in human history. It’s playing a critical role in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is leading the world in developing desperately needed therapies.”
The country has a lot to be thankful in terms of Dole’s contributions, and the Bayh-Dole Act is certainly one of those.