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WASHINGTON -U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) demand the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Commerce address concerns about the Biden administration’s new interpretation of “march-in rights” and federal agencies’ ability to seize small business patents.

Under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, only in narrow circumstances can the federal government march in and force a company to license out a patent. This authority has never been exercised. Under the Biden administration’s proposed guidelines, agencies could seize patents under a broad and ill-defined set of conditions and use these rights as price controls.

“It is jarring to see the expanded range of possible circumstances in which the Administration seems intent on seizing patents held by small business owners— including those developed within the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR-STTR) programs. Broad exercise of march-in authority under the Bayh-Dole Act could disincentivize small businesses from competing for federal research and development (R&D) dollars, discourage commercialization, and stifle America’s innovation ecosystem at large,” wrote the lawmakers.

“. . . the framework may also produce a scenario where businesses take federal R&D grant money and never commercialize products, choosing to rely on the federal government to seize their intellectual property and license it to others to bring goods and services to market. This would keep real, growth-oriented startup companies from accessing SBIR-STTR awards and bankroll companies whose business model is to collect hundreds of SBIR-STTR awards with no desire to graduate from the program,” the lawmakers continued.“. . . the Biden administration is making a true mistake if it puts this authority in practice and even expands the scope of allowable justifications as is proposed under the draft framework.”

In addition to Risch and Ernst, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

Read the letter here.