The Journal of Technology Transfer

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 111–130 | Cite as

Transferring Public Research: The Patent Licensing Mechanism in Agriculture

  • Kelly Day Rubenstein


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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Blalock, D.J., 2001 and 2002, Technology Licensing Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Office of Technology Transfer, Personal Communication.Google Scholar
  2. Bozeman, B., 2000, ‘Technology Transfer and Public Policy: A Review of Research and Theory,’ Research Policy 29, 627–655.Google Scholar
  3. Cohen, L.R. and R.G. Noll, 1996, ‘The Future of the National Laboratories,’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 93, 12678–12685.Google Scholar
  4. Congressional Research Service, 1991, Transfer of Technology from Publicly Funded Research Institutions to the Private Sector. A Report Prepared by the Congressional Research Service for the Use of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  5. Current Research Information System, 1985 and 1998, Inventory of Agricultural Research, Fiscal Years 1984, 1997, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative State Research, Extension, and Education Service.Google Scholar
  6. Economic Research Service, 2002, Economics of Foodborne DiseaseBrie ng Room,, Washington, DC: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  7. Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, 2002, Technology Transfer Desk Reference, Cherry Hill, NJ: Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, May.Google Scholar
  8. Fernandez-Cornejo, J. and W.D. McBride, 2002, Adoption of Bioengineered Crops, ERS Agricultural Economic Report No. Agricultural Economics Report 810, Washington, DC: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  9. Fuglie, K., N. Ballenger, K. Day, C. Klotz, M. Ollinger, J. Reilly, U. Vasavada, and J. Yee, 1996, ‘Agricultural Research and Development: Public and Private Investments Under Alternative Markets and Institutions,’ Agricultural Economics Report 735, Washington, DC: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  10. Frisvold, G., J. Sullivan, and A. Raneses, 1999, ‘Who Gains From Genetic Improvements In U.S. Crops?’ AgBioForum 2(3:4), 237–246, retrieved February 14, 2002, from the World Wide Web: Scholar
  11. Hayenga, M. and N. Kalaitzandonakes, 1999. ‘Structure and Coordination System Changes in the U.S. Biotech Seed and Value-added Grain Market,’ Paper presented at the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IAMA)World Food and Agribusiness Congress, May 1999.Google Scholar
  12. Heller, M.A. and R.S. Eisenberg, 1998, ‘Can Patents Deter Innovation?The Anticommons in Biomedical Research,’ Science 280, 698–01.Google Scholar
  13. Huffman, W. and R. Evenson, 1993, Science for Agriculture: A Longterm Perspective, Ames: Iowa State University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Jaffe, A.B. and J. Lerner, 1995, Privatizing R&D: Patent Policy and the Commercialization of National Laboratory Technologies, Working Paper 7064, Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.Google Scholar
  15. King, J., 2001, Concentration and Technology in Agricultural Input Industries, ERS Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 763. Washington, DC: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.Google Scholar
  16. Mowery, D.C., R.R. Nelson, B.N. Sampat, and A.A. Ziedos, 2001, ‘The Growth of Patenting and Licensing by US Universities: An Assessment of the Effects of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980,’ Research Policy 30, 99–119.Google Scholar
  17. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), 1972, Report of the Committee on Research Advisory to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  18. National Research Council, 1995, Allocating Federal Funds for Science and Technology, Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  19. Perko, J.S. and F. Narin, 1997, ‘The Transfer of Public Science to Patented Technology: A Case Study in Agricultural Science,’ Journal of Technology Transfer 3, 65–72.Google Scholar
  20. Postlewait, A., D.D. Parker, and D. Zilberman, 1993, ‘The Advent of Biotechnology and Technology Transfer in Agriculture,’ Technology Forecasting and Social Change 43, 271–287.Google Scholar
  21. Rockefeller Foundation, 1982, Science for Agriculture, New York: The Rockefeller Foundation.Google Scholar
  22. Schultz, T.W., 1971, ‘The Allocation of Resources to Research,’ in W.L. Fishel (ed.) Resource Allocation in Agricultural Research, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  23. Thursby, J.G., R. Jensen, and M.C. Thursby, 2001, ‘Incentives, Characteristics, and Outcomes of University Licensing: A Survey of Major U.S. Universities,’ Journal of Technology Transfer 26, 59–72.Google Scholar
  24. Winebrake, J.J., 1992, ‘A Study of Technology-Transfer Mechanisms for Federally Funded R&D,’ Technology Transfer Fall, 54–61.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelly Day Rubenstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Resource Economic DivisionUSDA Economic Research ServiceWashington, D.C

Personalised recommendations