A position paper released this week states opposition of AUTM on behalf of it members to the free agent concept, which would allow researchers to shop their technologies to other offices for commercialization, while the institution still retains its rights under assignment from the inventor. The argument is that while institution technology transfer offices provide service in support of the research mission, which does not always translate into immediate revenue, a third party would be driven primarily by financial interest.
While financial interest in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, it fails to show how this would result in increased commercialization of technologies. On the contrary, financial interest would indicate that technologies most likely to be adopted by another office under the free agent concept would be where the value is apparent. There should be no need to seek third party representation for those technologies, as they should already be actively pursued by the researcher’s own technology transfer office.
In exchange for what is considered a low probability of increased commercialization, the argument continues, the free agent concept would introduce a high probability of confusion. As researchers and technology transfer staff try to determine who should have responsibility for a technology, the process will become less efficient, unintentionally reducing commercialization.
These sentiments are echoed by Senator Birch Bayh in an opinion piece that appeared in the Atlantic earlier this month.
AUTM has posted information about proposed legislation, as well as a request for testimonials to oppose the concept, on their website.