Free Agency

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As the leader in education and benchmarking data and statistics for the technology transfer profession, AUTM is informed and well positioned to advise on matters of public policy affecting the profession. AUTM strongly opposes “free agency,” a concept which would allow university faculty to shop discoveries to any third party for licensing—regardless of where the research was conducted.
Read AUTM's position statement.

AUTM President-elect, Jane Muir, RTTP, blogs about free agency here.

Free Agency Infographic

Need a way to describe what free agency is and why it is a bad idea? Download this infographic! Share it with your government relations staff or any of your constituents. AUTM created this to help explain, in the simplest terms possible, why free agency will not speed up the technology transfer process. You have our permission to disseminate this as widely as possible.

Proposed Legislation—Read, Share, Lend Your Voice to the Discussion

Federal Legislation

 

House of Representatives

In June 2012, The Startup Act 2.0 (H.R. 5893) was introduced in the House of Representatives. Co-sponsors include: Reps. Russ Carnahan (D-MO), Robert Dold (R-IL), Michael G. Grimm (R-NY), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Kevin Yoder (R-KS).


Senate

In late 2011, Senators Moran (KS) and Warner (VA) introduced S.1965, The Startup Act, to the Senate. This bill is a good one—providing much needed support to accelerate the formation of startups and removes some unnecessary hurdles. 

However, AUTM does not support Section 7 of this bill, as it re-introduces the concept of free agency 

 

AUTM has been actively watching the progress of S.1965 and has worked with our colleagues at AAU, APLU and COGR to write alternative language for Section 7.

Read The Startup Act

Read the alternative language for Section 7

State Legislation

The Kauffman Foundation has now launched a Startup Act for The States. This puts free agency up as its first proposal and lashes out at the SBIR program and research parks.

Read the Startup Act for States 

Other Concerns

The American Association of University Professors' (AAUP) Recommended Principles and Practices to Guide Academy-Industry Relationships includes recommendations that amount to free agency. The AAUP invited public comment. Read AUTM's response.

Get Involved

  • Set up meetings with your federal relations officers and vice presidents for research: Share AUTM's position statement with them. Educating your colleagues on the dangers of Free Agency is a critical component to ensuring the proposal vanishes for good.
  • Help us gather testimonials: Free agency proponents are operating on the assumption that technology transfer offices are ineffective and a bottleneck for the licensing process. They assume that faculty are unilaterally dissatisfied with the current technology transfer process. We disagree. We know many of you work with faculty who are pleased with the technology transfer process, and we would like your help reaching out to them. Our goal is to compile testimonials from faculty to use on our website and other materials. Please send testimonials to Jodi Talley, AUTM Communications Director at jtalley@autm.netRead testimonials 
  • Spread the word: Tell others that free agency is a bad idea. Post a blog on the AUTM website; write op-ed pieces and letters to the editor; use Twitter, Facebook, and any other platform you have access to. Send us anything you write so we can post it here!
  • Share information: Have you found a great article or blog about the issue? Email it to Jodi Talley at jtalley@autm.net 


Additional Resources

The Free Agency of Ideas, Inside Higher Ed, 5/14/2012

School Power: The Case for Keeping Innovation in the Hands of Universities, Sen. Birch Bayh and Joseph P. Allen, The Atlantic 

Three Policies That Gave Us the Jobs Economy, The Wall Street Journal

Read the report Managing University Intellectual Property in the Public Interest by the National Research Council of the National Academies
Read AUTM's letter to the Department of Commerce 
 

Faculty Testimonials

Free agency proponents assume that technology transfer offices are ineffective and a bottleneck for the licensing process. They assume that faculty are unilaterally dissatisfied with the current technology transfer process. AUTM disagrees.

If you are an inventor who thinks technology transfer is working fine, we want to hear from you. If you work with faculty who are pleased with the technology transfer process, we would like your help reaching out to them. Please send testimonials to Jodi Talley, AUTM Communications Director at jtalley@autm.net.

Please note that the opinions expressed here belong to the individuals making the statements. These opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the employing institutions.


Comments in support of the use of technology transfer professionals  for university technology transfer, Professor Larry L. Howell, Ph.D., Department of Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University 25 April 2012
"For many years I have enjoyed a productive collaborative relationship with technology transfer professionals who have transferred to industry the technology developed in my university research. Their understanding of the university mission and policies, industry norms, and technology transfer laws and processes has been critical for maintaining consistency with our academic mission, avoiding conflicts of interest, compensating for voids in academics’ business knowledge, and efficiently transferring technology to companies that can commercialize our results.

In my experience, the speed at which university technology transfer occurs is not limited by the work of the technology transfer professionals, but rather by the fact that there remains a large gap between where university research ends and where commercial production begins. The introduction of free agency in technology transfer does not address that problem, and instead introduces new challenges that will likely slow the transfer process and result in more harm than good. Free agency would not only increase the time it takes to manage technology, but it would increase misunderstandings over ownership, create conflicts between commercialization and the university’s academic mission, and damage industry’s perception of working with universities."