by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 6th 2010 8:48am
An anonymous reader links us to a report from The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which came out earlier this year, that highlights how, in 2008, the US government brought in $170 million (pdf) by licensing federally (i.e., taxpayer-funded) technology and patents to private companies. It details which agencies are getting how many patents, showing that the government appears to get, on average, between 1,000 and 1,500 patents per year. Now, to be clear, I think it's a good thing that the government is looking to move some of these technologies into the private sector, but it does raise questions about why taxpayer funded research gets locked up behind a patent. In the US, federal government created works are not allowed to be protected by copyright protections, as people realized that it was ridiculous to lock up content created by their own government. Why doesn't the same apply to patents as well? If the goal is really to get the technology out to the private sector, why lock it up and look to license it? That makes it more expensive and less accessible. The report highlights how the government has been ramping up these efforts, such that it grew "revenues" from this licensing program by 46% from 2004 to 2008. This is one situation where it seems like a profit-motive might be quite misplaced.
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