The relevance of the Indian version of the Bayh-Dole Act – the country needs all stakeholders’ open debate on the proposed bill.

The Bayh-Dole Act is an American legislation, which was originally sponsored by two US senators named Birch Bayh and Bob Dole. This Act deals with Intellectual Property (IP) arising out of US government funding. Bayh-Dole Act is also known as University and Small Business Patent Procedure Act. In December 12, 1980 this was enacted into a law by the US Congress.
What it does:
Under this Act, IP rights over government funded inventions for further development, license to other parties or direct commercialization are transferred to the universities and small businesses operating with government contracts. The government though retains its right to license the invention to any third party without any consent from the IP right owner or the licensee, if it feels that on a reasonable basis the public is being denied of the benefits of the invention.

The Indian version of the Bayh-Dole Act:

The Utilization of the Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill 2008, which has been formulated in line with the US Bayh-Dole Act, has already been approved by the Union Cabinet of India. This bill ensures both utilization and protection of the IP arising out of government funded research initiatives. Currently government funded academic institutions and research institutes cannot commercialize the inventions.

The proposed bill will not only allow them to patent such inventions but will also reward the inventors and the institutes with a share of its commercialization proceeds as per specific guidelines.
The bill has attracted a mixed response from the stake holders.

The relevance of Bayh-Dole Act in India:

Relevance of Indian version of the Bayh-Doll Bill in the post product patent regime in India is
significant. The core concept of the bill encourages innovation and ensures protection of patents and other forms of IP rights of the government funded R&D outcomes, where the owner of the intellectual property will be the government grant receipients or the government.

This bill is expected to offer to various research institutions, universities, small businesses and non-profit organizations, the IP rights on their inventions, resulted from the government funding. Overall environment towards innovation within the country is expected to get a boost in that process.

Is the ownership and protection of R&D a real remedy to make government academic institutions and universities self sustainable?

This is certainly not the only remedy, but an important one. This process will have significant potential to effectively facilitate technology transfer from government funded research laboratories or universities to the user industry to make these establishments self-sustainable.

What are the main implications of the bill if enacted in its current form?

Although the fine prints of the bill are not yet clearly known, the bill in its current form raises more questions than answers. Some of the concerns with the bill in its current form are as follows:

- This law could effectively transfer the decision making process about
publications of the research papers from the researchers and academia to
the bureaucrats in the government establishments, making the R&D
environment quite stifling for the researchers and the initiative

- Academia at times will be compelled to incur significant expenditures
towards different types of IPR related litigation, which could have been
otherwise productively spent by these institutions towards research

- The learning and research may get transformed into another kind of
businesses activity, as such a law could change the research focus on to
the issues, which will be of greater commercial interest to various
industries and will offer immediate financial benefits to the
institutions. As a result vital non-commercial research, which could be of
critical interest to the nation as such, may take a back seat.


The country will therefore need an extensive public debate on this bill, which has not taken place, as yet. The loose knots of the bill need to be tightened and the concerns of the stakeholders need to be adequately addressed before its enactment into a law.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.