The Bayh-Dole Act Research & History Central - Founding Fathers - Norman J. Latker

Founding Fathers - Norman J. Latker - Biography


Norman Latker was the patent counsel for the National Institutes of Health from the 1960's through 1979. Latker became aware that under prevailing patent policies of the time taking ownership of NIH funded inventions away from the inventing universities and investing them in the federal government that few, if any, were being commercialized. He became convinced that a new policy was needed to secure a better return on taxpayer funded R&D, and began working with university experts in developing a revolutionary new approach called the Institutional Patent Agreements (IPA) program. Under the IPA, universities with a demonstrated capability of managing their inventions were allowed to retain patent ownership. The program was so successful at NIH that it was adopted by the National Science Foundation.

During the Carter Administration, Joseph Califano (then Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare) decided to end the IPA because of his belief that publicly financed inventions should be freely available to all. It was this action which led Senators Bayh and Dole to introduce legislation giving the IPA program a statutory basis which could not be abolished at the whim of the bureaucracy. Convinced that Latker was backing this legislative effort, Sec. Califano sought to terminate Latker's position.

This action was brought up during hearings on the Bayh-Dole bill and both Senators intervened with the Administration to move Latker to the Small Business Administration where he worked in the Office of Advocacy. This Office was the key to having the Bayh-Dole bill signed by President Carter, who was being urged by some to veto it.

Latker later moved to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy which was originally charged with writing the implementing regulations for the Bayh-Dole Act. When Latker subsequently moved to the Dept of Commerce, Senator Dole amended the Bayh-Dole Act so that Commerce (under Latker's leadership) continued to over see the new law.

Due to Latker's efforts, after a two year battle the implementing regulations were finally in place. Latker continued to work with Senator Dole's office on the amendments to the law in 1982 and 1984. Latker was the drafter of the Federal Technology Transfer Act which was enacted in 1986 and earned him an award from Secretary of Commerce Baldridge for this achievement.

Latker established the Interagency Committee on Technology Transfer, which he initially chaired, to oversee implementation of the Federal Technology Transfer Act as well as considering related technology transfer issues. He left federal service for private practice in 1990.

The Spirit Of Bayh-Dole
by Norman J. Latker

I hope I can provide some perspective on the Bayh-Dole Act, large portions of which I helped to draft back in the 1970s, when I served as Patent Counsel for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW). I was also an architect of the Act's implementing regulations...

Before the enactment of Bayh-Dole, an enormous amount of government-sponsored research and innovation went to waste, as there were no clear mechanisms in existence to transfer the resultant inventions to the marketplace.

Although there was spirited opposition to the bill, a powerful bipartisan consensus was built around the basic notion that market forces would do a far better job of disseminating such inventions to society than government bureaucracies ever could.

Put simply, the drafters of the act wanted to ensure that adequate incentives were in place to facilitate invention and to attract corporate investment into their development and distribution. We understood that inventions resulting from government research are conceptual in nature, and require significant investment by the private sector to bring them into practical application.

Our answer to the problem was that intellectual property rights should be accorded in full to the innovators, rather than to the government agency that financed their research, and that innovators should be free to leverage their property rights to their advantage in the market place as intended by the patent system. The only conditions to be attached to this freedom were envisioned as follows:

  1. Reasonable efforts were required to develop the inventions to practical application;
  2. The inventions should be readily available to society;
  3. The inventions should not be used in such a way that might threaten public health;
  4. If an invention were subject to a federal order of some kind, the developer must comply with that order; and
  5. The inventions should be manufactured within the United States.






The Collection

    Norman J. Latker - Letter and Memos


     Norman J. Latker - Notes


     Norman J. Latker - News and Articles


 Norman J. Latker - Statements and Reports


     Norman J. Latker - Legislation


     Norman J. Latker - Supporting Documents


     Norman J. Latker - Early and Contemporaneous Papers Supporting University Patenting


Norman J. Latker - Additional Related Archival Documents


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