Saturday, November 18, 2017

What is Technology Transfer?

For consistency, we are referencing the definition from the Federal Laboratory Consortium.  See their FAQ page for more useful info.

“Although there are many definitions of technology transfer, generally speaking, technology transfer is the process by which technology or knowledge developed in one place or for one purpose is applied and used in another. This broad definition covers a wide variety of procedures or mechanisms that can be used to transfer technology and is not necessarily restricted to federal activities. 

However, the federal government has for many years been actively supporting and encouraging technology transfer with respect to federally generated technologies. Therefore, the phrase "technology transfer" most often refers specifically to transfers occurring between federal laboratories and any non-federal organization, including private industry, academia, and state and local governments. The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC), which was formally chartered by Congress to facilitate technology transfer in the United States, has developed the following definition that accommodates the technology transfer activities of a wide variety of federal agencies and their R&D laboratories and centers:

Technology transfer is the process by which existing knowledge, facilities, or capabilities developed under federal research and development (R&D) funding are utilized to fulfill public and private needs. 

In some cases, however, technology transfer also can occur between federal agencies, although the primary emphasis is on transfers to all types of nonfederal organizations. In addition, federal technology transfer activities are not always from a federal laboratory to another party. There are occasions when technology transfer mechanisms can be used by a federal laboratory to import from the outside technologies or knowledge that can assist the laboratory with achieving its mission goals. This might, in fact, be a lower-cost alternative to developing a technology or expertise entirely within the laboratory.”

Does NOAA do technology transfer?

NOAA has a long history of transferring its inventions and innovations to the private sector for commercialization.  NOAA’s primary means of transferring technology is through regular publications in peer reviewed literature by our scientists.  However, NOAA has also developed a number of technologies, both in house and through Cooperative Research and Development and similar agreements, which have resulted in over 30 patents and related licenses.  Companies interested in working with NOAA or licensing our technologies should see our Partnering with NOAA pages.

What is intellectual property?  I am a scientist - why is this important to me?

Again, we reference the Federal Laboratory Consortium website for consistency:

“Intellectual, or intangible, assets include any products of the human intellect—such as inventions, discoveries, technologies, creations, developments, or other forms of expressing an idea—whether or not the subject matter is protectable under the laws governing the different forms of intellectual property. Intellectual property is that subset of intellectual assets that can be legally protected, and includes patents, plant variety protection certificates, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets. Just as our legal system provides rights and protection for owners of real property such as real estate, it also provides rights and protection to owners of intellectual property (intangible property). The intangible right to intellectual property can be bought, sold, leased, rented, or otherwise transferred between parties. The transfer of intellectual property rights can affect the marketability of a product, as well as the selection of a producer or manufacturer of a product; therefore, the right to intellectual property often involves considerable discussion among the parties in a technology transfer endeavor.”

As a federal, mission-based science agency, NOAA is dedicated understanding and predicting changes in the natural environment and conserving our coastal and marine ecosystems through our science.  Sharing that knowledge with others is also a critical function, which we accomplish through many means.   However, changes to U.S. patent laws in 2013 due to the American Invents Act  will have broad implications for NOAA scientists.  Most importantly, the change from a “first-to-invent” system to a “first-inventor-to-file” means that NOAA scientists will need to more actively seek patent protection for technologies destined for operational use. Read more on the America Invents Act  and/or contact our staff for more information.

Do We have "Facilities Use" Agreements?

The use of Department of Commerce facilities by other Federal agencies, state and local governments, academia, and the private sector for research is governed by Departmental Administrative Order 217-19.  In addition to providing the authority, policy and procedures, DAO 217-19 includes a model Memorandum of Understanding for use by building managers.  We are authorized to collect fees for the full-cost recovery for use of our facilities.

Is there a Non-Disclosure Agreement Template?

Yes.  The Department of Commerce General Counsel provides a template for a Non-Disclosure Agreement on their Intellectual Property page that can be used by NOAA labs.  So long as this template is not modified, it does not require general counsel approval and can be signed/executed by the lab director.