The passage of the Bayh-Dole Act by the U.S. Congress in 1980 allowed universities to hold patent rights for discoveries made at their institutions with the support of federal funds.
The acknowledged purpose of the Bayh-Dole Act was to encourage technology transfer from universities to the commercial sector so as to make the latest in scientific and technological discoveries available to the public through faster development of new products for the consumer or new clinical procedures for the prevention and treatment of disease.
As a result, academic researchers and their institutions have entered into a variety of relationships with industry. These relationships have included licensing agreements with established companies with royalty provisions for the exploitation of university-owned patents, equity in such companies for the researcher and/or the University; consultancies for university-based researchers, and formation of new companies in which the University and/or its investigators may have a financial stake.
Along with the expected acceleration in the acquisition of patents held by universities, a new concern has come to the fore: that the enticements of financial reward from industry might bias the objectivity of academic teachers and researchers in the pursuit of their investigations.
Universities have developed policies and procedures for dealing with these newer associations between academe and industry, as well as with older types of relationships, such as consulting, so as to ensure themselves and their various clienteles that the advantages of these connections are not being achieved at the expense of the fundamental values of objectivity in research.