December 28, 2005

Technology LicensingLessons From the US Experience

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Clinical Bioethics (Dr Emanuel, Messrs Sobolski and Barton), and Social and Behavioral Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute (Messrs Sobolski and Barton), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md; and Stanford University Law School, Stanford, Calif (Mr Barton).

JAMA. 2005;294(24):3137-3140. doi:10.1001/jama.294.24.3137

In recent years, there has been substantial focus on patenting scientific discoveries from public and private research institutions. The push for increased patenting has been driven most strongly in the United States, but has also extended to other countries.1 Although the multiple roles for technology development and transfer can yield important social benefits, some are potentially detrimental. One reason for the attention on patenting is the belief that licensing patented technologies could generate income that in turn could finance additional research and socially valuable programs. This belief has surfaced in discussions of public policy, most notably in developing countries. The assumption that technology licensing is a principal answer to unlocking a revenue goldmine is faulty and can lead to undesirable consequences. In this article, we analyze the US licensing experience longitudinally, discuss policy implications, address emerging trends specifically among developing nations, and suggest that royalty revenue–driven technology licensing in developing countries is the wrong public policy to adopt.

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