Sharing NASA's Inventions with the Nation
The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 and a series of subsequent laws identify the transfer of Federally-owned or originated technology as a national priority and an important mission of each Federal Agency. Technology transfer promotes commercial activity, encourages economic growth, and stimulates innovation in business and commerce.
Legislation specifically requires that each Federal Agency have a formal technology transfer program. The legislation (such as the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980) gives NASA both the authority to transfer technology as well as protect the Government's rights to its inventions. NASA generally seeks to protect those technologies having the greatest likelihood of being commercially applied. There are also cases where NASA does not apply protections, making technology available for free and unrestricted to anyone having an interest in its application.
NASA's available technologies number in the thousands and span a broad spectrum. Many are so generic that they can be applied in almost any key industrial sector. NASA endeavors to make the public aware of the opportunity to take advantage of our technologies through our participation in conferences, trade shows, license auctions, and print publications.
NASA technologies available for license, as well as those technologies NASA elects to leave unprotected, can be searched at the NASA Techfinder portal. The collaborative NASA Techfinder database is compiled based on reports submitted by the Agency's inventors and catalogs technologies available for either licensing or using. There is also a compilation of success stories on TechFinder.
NASA Tech Briefs Magazine is a monthly publication that includes technologies available for licensing, technologies available at no cost, and NASA's technology needs for which NASA is seeking dual-use technology development partners. NASA Spinoff Magazine is an annual publication featuring about 50 NASA technology transfer successes in each issue. NASA Technology Innovation Magazine is a quarterly publication focused on applications of NASA technologies in specific industrial sectors. It provides information on NASA's technology needs and associated partnering opportunities and successes, as well as on NASA's partnering successes. When we showcase our technologies at professional conferences and industrial trade shows, we tailored our portfolio to the interests of the particular profession or industry. At these events we invite participation, responding to real-time and follow up inquiry. Additionally, we have created an RSS feed of our technologies available for licensing to make it easier for potential partners to stay informed on new developments.
In 2008 Innovative Partnerships Program (IPP) Office at Goddard Space Flight Center was seeking a new paradigm on how to license its patent portfolio and entered into an agreement with Ocean Tomo for public auctions of NASA patents. The regulations governing licensing of Government owned IP seemed at odds with the auction format, but the Goddard IPP Office devised a solution compatible with federal patent licensing. The solution was to license the patents to Ocean Tomo prior to the auction, and allow Ocean Tomo to auction the right to transfer their license to the winning bidder. October 30, 2008, Ocean Tomo's eighth live-auction and their largest one to date with over 500 in attendance, successfully sold a government patent license through a public auction of intellectual property.
Technology transfer promotes commercial activity, encourages economic growth, and stimulates innovation in business and commerce. NASA's transferrable technologies are made open to allow innovations that benefit the public and stimulate economic development. Commercialization of NASA technologies via public auction increases the value of NASA technologies by putting those technologies to work in the economy sooner and in a mechanism more companies are familiar with. The auction format fosters a completely transparent license transaction since the license terms and final sales price are public, and this agreement can be used for other government agencies.