The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 111-130

First online:

Transferring Public Research: The Patent Licensing Mechanism in Agriculture

  • Kelly Day RubensteinAffiliated withResource Economic Division, USDA Economic Research Service

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Technology transfer policies can bring public R&D to potential users, reduce burdens on public resources, and influence technology development. Patent licensing offers transparency, potentially higher research returns, and possible increased adoption of socially desirable technologies. However, it limits access to research results, and raises concerns that public institutions will alter their agendas. A review of the US Department of Agriculture's patent and licensing program addresses the types of technologies disseminated, social benefits associated with them, institutions licensing technologies, the importance of exclusivity, and whether research priorities have become oriented to private interests. Results suggest that USDA's patent licensing is not revenue driven, and its research agenda has not changed in response to the program. Licenses vary with respect to four important social benefits. Licensing program priorities are closer to those of the private sector than the USDA's research program. Partial or limited exclusivity may be sufficient to attract technology developers.