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Business Innovation and the Law

Business Innovation and the Law

Perspectives from Intellectual Property, Labour, Competition and Corporate Law

Edited by Marilyn Pittard, Ann L. Monotti and John Duns

Business Innovation and the Law analyses the topical issue of protecting and promoting business research and development. It does so by examining business innovation through the lens of different legal disciplines – intellectual property, labour and employment laws, competition and corporate laws.

Chapter 25: Technology transfer law, policies and practices at the U.S. National Institutes of Health

Claire T. Driscoll

Subjects: law - academic, competition and antitrust law, corporate law and governance, intellectual property law, labour, employment law


The National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States (U.S.) Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, is one of the world’s largest biomedical research organizations both in terms of the financial support it provides and its research output. Most of the NIH’s 27 individual Institutes and Centers have both a funding function (in 2010 $31.2 billion was distributed in the form of grants and contracts) and a research function (the NIH’s ‘in-house’ or intramural research program, most of which is conducted by U.S. federal employees on its main campus in suburban Washington DC, has a budget of nearly $3 billion per year). An overview of U.S. government technology transfer statutes will be presented in conjunction with a summary of key federal technology transfer policies. In addition, NIH’s intellectual property (IP) and licensing policies as well as several ‘best practices’ aimed at ensuring that the public derives health benefits from the successful transfer of NIH-supported and NIH-invented biomedical inventions to the private sector will be described. The legal basis for the current successful and often imitated U.S. technology transfer system was created in the 1980s and 1990s. Before 1980, technologies discovered in university and government laboratories using federal money were solely owned by the U.S. government (as a whole). Neither the university nor the particular government agency which funded a given research project could seek ownership rights to inventions that arose.

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