Historical Note

The Patent and Trademark Act Amendments of 1980, introduced as the University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act and commonly known as the Bayh-Dole Act, were enacted on December 12, 1980 (P.L. 96-517). The Bayh Dole Act established procedures through which universities, small businesses, and non-profit corporations could control intellectual property resulting from federally funded research. Co-sponsored by Senators Birch Bayh of Indiana and Robert Dole of Kansas, it was the culmination of 17 years of efforts to address the enormous backlog of patents accumulated by the U.S. government, only 5% of which were commercially licensed, and the 26 different agency policies confronting anyone interested in government intellectual property.

Policy unification efforts were undertaken from 1963 to 1971 but with government agencies retaining title. Efforts in the late 1960s and early 1970s pioneered by Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison led to the development of Institutional Patent Agreements with two agencies, Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation, that allowed universities and non-profits to retain title to their inventions. The Bayh-Dole Act created a uniform patent policy among all agencies and set out conditions under which non-profit organizations, including universities, and small businesses could become actively engaged in technology transfer and commercialization of the products of their research.

The Collection

The Bayh-Dole Act Digital Collection consists of digital images of documents from the Birch Bayh Senatorial Papers that relate to the development of the 1980 legislation. The vast majority are letters to Bayh, largely from researchers, entrepreneurs, and attorneys whose ideas and concerns formed an important part of the discussion.

Access to the Collection

A detailed finding aid provides access to the collection, which is fully digitized and accessible online.

Related Collection

Joe Allen, the member of Bayh’s staff who spearheaded work on what became the Bayh-Dole legislation, retained his own papers and has deposited them with the Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property of the University of New Hampshire Law School. They are available online through The Bayh-Dole Act Research & History Central website, along with a wide range of background and contextual resources.

Other Resources

Joe Allen's "The Enactment of Bayh-Dole, An Inside Perspective," provides a blow-by-blow account of how the legislation almost did not come into being.

Read also Senator Bayh's address given on the 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Bayh-Dole Act.