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The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 allowed universities to patent (and then to license) discoveries made in the course of government-sponsored research. The Act was meant to promote the commercialization of this research, which, it was thought, might otherwise languish for lack of proponents with a strong financial interest. Yet many cases the law actually thwarts the dissemination of publicly sponsored science by allowing the patent system to encroach on areas of basic research that were formerly the domain of open scholarly exchange. Hence the law merits modification, at least in how it applies to biopharmaceutical research, so as to give funding agencies greater latitude in controlling the proprietary claims of their grantees.
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