Technology transfer legislation is not likely to start moving through Congress until fall, but provisions in the House and Senate bills already are creating a stir. The proposals' aim is to enhance productivity of the nation's 380 federally owned research laboratories and to increase industry's access to technologies spawned by these facilities.
At first glance, it does not appear that there is much to debate. The legislation has attracted the support of Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kans) and House Minority Leader Robert Michel (R-Ill.), who are sponsoring S. 65 and H.R. 695, respectively. And a similar bill, H.R. 1572, is being sponsored by five members of the House subcommittee on science, research and technology. But industry lobbyists are scrutinizing provisions in the House and Senate bills dealing with royalty assignments.
The sponsors of the three bills want to give federal labs greater authority to enter into joint agreements with private parties and to provide a better reward system for federal inventors. Under the legislative proposals, the laboratories would get 100 percent of all royalties paid by manufacturers for inventions. The revenues could be used to finance new research programs as well as pay inventors' royalty fees and cover related administrative costs.
The proposed amendments to the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 are targeted at federally operated laboratories like the National Bureau of Standards. It would permit them to transfer technology to industry and to enter into technology development pacts. Except for a handful of Department of Energy facilities,...