Representative Conyers speech at AUTM’s 30th Anniversary Bayh-Dole event

Patently BIOtech

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. appearing at the Association of University Technology Managers 30th Anniversary of the Bayh-Dole Act Wednesday, December 1, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. Washington Convention Center

I would like to thank you for inviting me to speak before this distinguished group of professionals today.

America has always been a nation of dreamers and innovators. Edison’s lightbulb illuminated the world and the Wright brothers showed us that we could fly. We split the atom, broke the sound barrier, and put a man on the moon. For generations, America has been a leader in scientific discovery and the useful application of technology.

Our patent laws have helped to develop this culture of innovation by providing incentives for researchers to push the envelope of what we think is possible. And for the last 30 years, the Bayh-Dole Act has contributed significantly to the success of our innovation system.

Genius of the Legislation

In 2005, the Economist magazine called the Bayh-Dole Act “perhaps the most inspired piece of legislation to be enacted in America over the past half-century.” I agree.

The Bayh-Dole Act put ownership of patents into the hands of universities, and gave universities a free hand to work with private industry to see their new discoveries turn into useful products and processes. At the same time, it also ensured that the faculty and student inventors would be rewarded for their contributions.

The genius of this legislation was aligning of interests of faculty inventors, universities, and the private sector.

Technological Advance

The Bayh-Dole Act has been a major boon for the creation of technology in this country.

In the biomedical field, Bayh-Dole has helped move vaccines, cancer treatments, and medical devices from university labs to the public.

In the information technology sector, the software backbone on which Google and Yahoo are based came out of university computer labs.

Similar examples can be found in all technological fields, including very important emerging areas like green tech, nanotechnology, and advance manufacturing.

Thanks to Bayh-Dole, research done at the University of Michigan formed the basis of FluMist, a nasal spray influenza vaccine. Bayh-Dole has also helped move a technology from the labs at my alma mater, Wayne State University, that uses sonic infrared to detect cracks in airplanes.

These are just two examples of the real world application of technology first developed in universities, then licensed to the private sector for further development, and which ultimately were incorporated into new products and methods that benefit society.

Economic Benefits

Since the passage of Bayh-Dole, more than 6,000 companies have been formed to commercialize products developed through university research.

These companies are more than just centers of innovation. They create jobs that employ thousands of Americans and have helped to revitalize communities across the country.

In the state of Michigan, in just the last 5 years, over 80 start up companies have been formed based on technology licensed from my State’s three largest universities: University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State University.

I want to note that the Supreme Court has recently taken up the case of Stanford v. Roche. This case involves the assignment of inventions by faculty inventors in instances where the Bayh-Dole Act applies. I will be keeping a close eye on this case, and I sincerely hope the Supreme Court develops a resolution that does not disturb the phenomenally successful balance of rights that the Bayh-Dole Act provides.

Conclusion

I recently introduced a Resolution recognizing the Bayh-Dole Act on its 30th Anniversary. The Resolution highlights the contributions this legislation has made to our country, and honors those who sought its passage.

I would like to reiterate my thanks to the legislation’s name sakes, Senators Birch Bayh and Robert Dole, as well as give thinks to my former House colleagues who guided this legislation through, including Representatives Peter Rodino, Hamilton Fish, Robert Kastenmeier, Tom Railsback, and Don Fuqua.

The Bayh-Dole Act was an elegantly simple piece of legislation, that forever has changed this country’s research and development landscape for the better. I eagerly await to see what new technologies and innovations come as a result of the Bayh-Dole Act in the next 30 years.

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