Opinions and Editorials

Mar. 24, 2020

IP Watchdog: Everything Depends on Coronavirus R&D Partnerships—Don’t Let the Critics Wreck Them by Joseph Allen

The world is teetering on the brink of a public health and economic catastrophe, depending on emergency partnerships between our public and private sectors to develop a successful treatment for the coronavirus. If there was ever a time to be thankful that we have policies in place making that possible, it’s now. But there are those who want to use this crisis to return to the failed policies of the past.

Here’s the bottom line: the Bayh-Dole Act works. It allows the private sector to collaborate with universities and federal laboratories, like the National Institutes of Health, knowing that intellectual property they bring into such partnerships will be protected. It also allows academic institutions and federal labs to determine what type of license is best suited to promptly commercialize their inventions.

But some want to return us to the days when the government seized inventions made with even small levels of federal funding. Because they were only available through non-exclusive licenses, they gathered dust on the shelves as the incentives needed to take them from the lab into the marketplace were destroyed. As one of Napoleon’s ministers said of such foolish policy choices: “It was worse than a crime. It was a blunder.”

There’s no room for unforced blunders right now.