Previous Next

Subpart 27.3—Patent Rights under Government Contracts

27.300  Scope of subpart.

This subpart prescribes policies, procedures, and contract clauses with respect to inventions made in the performance of work under a Government contract or subcontract thereunder if a purpose of the contract or subcontract is the conduct of experimental, developmental, or research work, except to the extent statutory requirements necessitate different agency policies, procedures, and clauses as specified in agency supplemental regulations.

27.301  Definitions.

As used in this subpart—

“Invention” means any invention or discovery that is or may be patentable or otherwise protectable under Title 35 of the U.S. Code or any novel variety of plant that is or may be protectable under the Plant Variety Protection Act (7 U.S.C. 2321, et seq.).

“Made” when used in relation to any invention, means the conception or first actual reduction to practice of such invention.

“Nonprofit organization” means a university or other institution of higher education or an organization of the type described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (26 U.S.C. 501(c)) and exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 501(a)), or any nonprofit scientific or educational organization qualified under a State nonprofit organization statute.

“Practical application” means to manufacture, in the case of a composition or product; to practice, in the case of a process or method; or to operate, in the case of a machine or system; and, in each case, under such conditions as to establish that the invention is being utilized and that its benefits are, to the extent permitted by law or Government regulations, available to the public on reasonable terms.

“Small business firm” means a small business concern as defined at 15 U.S.C. 632 and implementing regulations of the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. (For the purpose of this definition, the size standard contained in 13 CFR 121.3-8 for small business contractors and in 13 CFR 121.3-12 for small business subcontractors will be used. See FAR Part 19.)

“Subject invention” means any invention of the contractor conceived or first actually reduced to practice in the performance of work under a Government contract; provided, that in the case of a variety of plant, the date of determination defined in section 41(d) of the Plant Variety Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. 2401(d), must also occur during the period of contract performance.

27.302  Policy.

(a) Introduction. The policy of this section is based on Chapter 18 of Title 35, U.S.C. (Pub. L. 95-517, Pub. L. 98-620, 37 CFR Part 401), the Presidential Memorandum on Government Patent Policy to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies dated February 18, 1983, and Executive Order 12591, which provides that, to the extent permitted by law, the head of each Executive Department and agency shall promote the commercialization, in accord with the Presidential Memorandum, of patentable results of federally funded research by granting to all contractors, regardless of size, the title to patents made in whole or in part with Federal funds, in exchange for royalty-free use by or on behalf of the Government. The objectives of this policy are to use the patent system to promote the utilization of inventions arising from federally supported research or development; to encourage maximum participation of industry in federally supported research and development efforts; to ensure that these inventions are used in a manner to promote free competition and enterprise; to promote the commercialization and public availability of the inventions made in the United States by United States industry and labor; to ensure that the Government obtains sufficient rights in federally supported inventions to meet the needs of the Government and protect the public against nonuse or unreasonable use of inventions; and, to minimize the costs of administering policies in this area.

(b) Contractor right to elect title. Under the policy set forth in paragraph (a) of this section, each contractor may, after disclosure to the Government as required by the patent rights clause included in the contract, elect to retain title to any invention made in the performance of work under the contract. To the extent an agency’s statutory requirements necessitate a different policy, or different procedures and/or contract clauses to effectuate the policy set forth in paragraph (a) of this section, such policy, procedures, and clauses shall be contained in or expressly referred to in that agency’s supplement to this subpart. In addition, a contract may provide otherwise—

(1) When the contractor is not located in the United States or does not have a place of business located in the United States or is subject to the control of a foreign-government (see 27.303(c));

(2) In exceptional circumstances when it is determined by the agency that restriction or elimination of the right to retain title in any subject invention will better promote the policy and objectives of Chapter 18 of Title 35, U.S.C. and the Presidential Memorandum;

(3) When it is determined by a Government authority which is authorized by statute or Executive order to conduct foreign intelligence or counterintelligence activities that the restriction or elimination of the right to retain title to any subject invention is necessary to protect the security of such activities; or

(4) When the contract includes the operation of a Government-owned, contractor-operated facility of the Department of Energy primarily dedicated to the Department’s naval nuclear propulsion or weapons related programs and all funding agreement limitations under 35 U.S.C. 202(a)(iv) for agreements with small business firms and nonprofit organizations are limited to inventions occurring under the above two programs.

In the case of small business firms and nonprofit organizations, when an agency justifies and exercises the exception at paragraph (b)(2) of this section on the basis of national security, the contract shall provide the contractor with the right to elect ownership to any invention made under such contract as provided by the clause at 52.227-11, Patent Rights—Retention by the Contractor (Short Form), if the invention is not classified by the agency within 6 months of the date it is reported to the agency, or within the same time period the Department of Energy (DOE) does not, as authorized by regulation, law or Executive order or implementing regulations thereto, prohibit unauthorized dissemination of the invention. Contracts in support of DOE’s naval nuclear propulsion program are exempted from this paragraph. When a contract involves a series of separate task orders, an agency may apply the exceptions at paragraph (b)(2) or (3) of this section to individual task orders, and it may structure the contract so that modified patent rights clauses will apply to the task order even though the clause at 52.227-11 is applicable to the remainder of the work. In those instances when the Government has the right to acquire title at the time of contracting, the contractor may, nevertheless, request greater rights to an identified invention (see 27.304-1(a)). The right of the contractor to retain title shall, in any event, be subject to the provisions of paragraphs (c) through (g) of this section.

(c) Government license. The Government shall have at least a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice, or have practiced for or on behalf of the United States, any subject invention throughout the world; and may, if provided in the contract (see Alternate I of the applicable patent rights clause), have additional rights to sublicense any foreign government or international organization pursuant to existing treaties or agreements identified in the contract, or to otherwise effectuate such treaties or agreements. In the case of long term contracts, the contract may also provide (see Alternate II) such rights with respect to treaties or agreements to be entered into by the Government after the award of the contract.

(d) Government right to receive title.

(1) The Government has the right to receive title to any invention if the contract so provides pursuant to a determination made in accordance with paragraph (b)(1), (2), (3), or (4) of this section. In addition, to the extent provided in the patent rights clause, the Government has the right to receive title to an invention—

(i) If the contractor has not disclosed the invention within the time specified in the clause;

(ii) In any country where the contractor does not elect to retain rights or fails to elect to retain rights to the invention within the time specified in the clause;

(iii) In any country where the contractor has not filed a patent application within the time specified in the clause;

(iv) In any country where the contractor decides not to continue prosecution of a patent application, pay maintenance fees, or defend in a reexamination or opposition proceeding on the patent; and/or

(v) In any country where the contractor no longer desires to retain title.

(2) For the purposes of this paragraph, election or filing in a European Patent Office Region or under the Patent Cooperation Treaty constitutes election or filing in any country covered therein to meet the times specified in the clause, provided that the Government has the right to receive title in those countries not subsequently designated by the contractor.

(e) Utilization reports. The Government shall have the right to require periodic reporting on the utilization or efforts at obtaining utilization that are being made by the contractor or its licensees or assignees. Such reporting by small business firms and nonprofit organizations may be required in accordance with instructions as may be issued by the Department of Commerce. Agencies should protect the confidentiality of utilization reports which are marked with restrictions to the extent permitted by 35 U.S.C. 205 or other applicable laws and 37 CFR Part 401. Agencies shall not disclose such utilization reports to persons outside the Government without permission of the contractor. Contractors will continue to provide confidential markings to help prevent inadvertent release outside the agency.

(f) March-in rights.

(1) With respect to any subject invention in which a contractor has acquired title, contracts provide that the agency shall have the right (unless provided otherwise in accordance with 27.304-1(f)) to require the contractor, an assignee, or exclusive licensee of a subject invention to grant a nonexclusive, partially exclusive, or exclusive license in any field of use to a responsible applicant or applicants, upon terms that are reasonable under the circumstances, and if the contractor, assignee, or exclusive licensee refuses such request, to grant such a license itself, if the agency determines that such action is necessary—

(i) Because the contractor or assignee has not taken, or is not expected to take within a reasonable time, effective steps to achieve practical application of the subject invention in such field of use;

(ii) To alleviate health or safety needs which are not reasonably satisfied by the contractor, assignee, or their licensees;

(iii) To meet requirements for public use specified by Federal regulations and such requirements are not reasonably satisfied by the contractor, assignee, or licensees; or

(iv) Because the agreement required by paragraph (g) of this section has neither been obtained nor waived, or because a licensee of the exclusive right to use or sell any subject invention in the United States is in breach of its agreement obtained pursuant to paragraph (g) of this section.

(2) This right of the agency shall be exercised only after the contractor has been provided a reasonable time to present facts and show cause why the proposed agency action should not be taken, and afforded an opportunity to take appropriate action if the contractor wishes to dispute or appeal the proposed action, in accordance with 27.304-1(g).

(g) Preference for United States industry. Unless provided otherwise in accordance with 27.304-1(f), contracts provide that no contractor which receives title to any subject invention and no assignee of any such contractor shall grant to any person the exclusive right to use or sell any subject invention in the United States unless such person agrees that any products embodying the subject invention or produced through the use of the subject invention will be manufactured substantially in the United States. However, in individual cases, the requirement for such an agreement may be waived by the agency upon a showing by the contractor or assignee that reasonable but unsuccessful efforts have been made to grant licenses on similar terms to potential licensees that would be likely to manufacture substantially in the United States or that under the circumstances domestic manufacture is not commercially feasible.

(h) Small business preference.

(1) Nonprofit organization contractors are expected to use efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to attract small business licensees. They are also expected to give small business firms that meet the standard outlined in the clause at 52.227-11, Patent Rights—Retention by the Contractor (Short Form), a preference over other applicants for licenses. What constitutes reasonable efforts to attract small business licensees will vary with the circumstances and the nature, duration, and expense of efforts needed to bring the invention to the market. Paragraph (k)(4) of the clause is not intended, for example, to prevent nonprofit organizations from providing larger firms with a right of first refusal or other options in inventions that relate to research being supported under long-term or other arrangements with larger companies. Under such circumstances, it would not be reasonable to seek and to give a preference to small business licensees.

(2) Small business firms that believe a nonprofit organization is not meeting its obligations under the clause may report their concerns to the Secretary of Commerce. To the extent deemed appropriate, the Secretary of Commerce will undertake informal investigation of the concern, and, if appropriate, enter into discussions or negotiations with the nonprofit organization to the end of improving its efforts in meeting its obligations under the clause. However, in no event will the Secretary of Commerce intervene in ongoing negotiations or contractor decisions concerning the licensing of a specific subject invention. All the above investigations, discussions, and negotiations of the Secretary of Commerce will be in coordination with other interested agencies, including the Small Business Administration; and in the case of a contract for the operation of a Government-owned, contractor-operated research or production facility, the Secretary of Commerce will coordinate with the agency responsible for the facility prior to any discussions or negotiations with the contractor.

(i) Minimum rights to contractor.

(1) When the Government acquires title to a subject invention, the contractor is normally granted a revocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free license to that invention throughout the world. The contractor’s license extends to its domestic subsidiaries and affiliates, if any, within the corporate structure of which the contractor is a part and includes the right to grant sublicenses of the same scope to the extent the contractor was legally obligated to do so at the time the contract was awarded. The license is transferable only with the approval of the contracting officer except when transferred to the successor of that part of the contractor’s business to which the invention pertains.

(2) The contractor’s domestic license may be revoked or modified to the extent necessary to achieve expeditious practical application of the subject invention pursuant to an application for an exclusive license submitted in accordance with the applicable provisions in the Federal Property Management Regulations and agency licensing regulations. This license will not be revoked in that field of use or the geographical areas in which the contractor has achieved practical application and continues to make the benefits of the invention reasonably accessible to the public. The license in any foreign country may be revoked or modified to the extent the contractor, its licensees, or its domestic subsidiaries or affiliates have failed to achieve practical application in that country. See the procedures at 27.304-1(e).

(j) Confidentiality of inventions. The publication of information disclosing an invention by any party before the filing of a patent application may create a bar to a valid patent. Accordingly, 35 U.S.C. 205 and 37 CFR Part 40 provide that Federal agencies are authorized to withhold from disclosure to the public information disclosing any invention in which the Federal Government owns or may own a right, title, or interest (including a nonexclusive license) for a reasonable time in order for a patent application to be filed. Furthermore, Federal agencies shall not be required to release copies of any document which is part of an application for patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office or with any foreign patent office. The Presidential Memorandum on Government Patent Policy specifies that agencies should protect the confidentiality of invention disclosures and patent applications required in performance or in consequence of awards to the extent permitted by 35 U.S.C. 205 or other applicable laws.

27.303  Contract clauses.

In contracts (and solicitations therefor) for experimental, developmental, or research work (but see 27.304-3 regarding contracts for construction work or architect-engineer services), a patent rights clause shall be inserted as follows:

(a)(1) The contracting officer shall insert the clause at 52.227-11, Patent Rights—Retention by the Contractor (Short Form), if all the following conditions apply:

(i) The contractor is a small business concern or nonprofit organization as defined in 27.301 or, except for contracts of the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Energy (DOE), or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), any other type of contractor.

(ii) No alternative patent rights clause is used in accordance with paragraph (c) or (d) of this section or 27.304-2.

(2) To the extent the information is not required elsewhere in the contract, and unless otherwise specified by agency supplemental regulations, the contracting officer may modify 52.227-11(f) to require the contractor to do one or more of the following:

(i) Provide periodic (but not more frequently than annually) listings of all subject inventions required to be disclosed during the period covered by the report.

(ii) Provide a report prior to the closeout of the contract listing all subject inventions or stating that there were none.

(iii) Provide, upon request, the filing date, serial number and title, a copy of the patent application, and patent number and issue date for any subject invention in any country in which the contractor has applied for patents.

(iv) Furnish the Government an irrevocable power to inspect and make copies of the patent application file when a Federal Government employee is a coinventor.

(3) If the acquisition of patent rights for the benefit of a foreign government is required under a treaty or executive agreement, or if the agency head or a designee determines at the time of contracting that it would be in the national interest to acquire the right to sublicense foreign governments or international organizations pursuant to any existing or future treaty or agreement, the contracting officer shall use the clause at 52.227-11, with its Alternate I. If other rights are necessary to effectuate the treaty or agreement, Alternate I may be appropriately modified. In long term contracts, Alternate II shall be added if necessary to effectuate treaties or agreements to be entered into.

(4) If the contracting officer includes the clause at 52.227-11, Patent Rights—Retention by the Contractor (Short Form), in a contract with a nonprofit organization for the operation of a Government-owned facility, the contracting officer will include Alternate III in lieu of paragraph (k)(3) of the clause.

(5) If the contract is for the operation of a Government-owned facility, the contracting officer may include Alternate IV with the clause at 52.227-11.

(b)(1) The contracting officer shall insert the clause at 52.227-12, Patent Rights—Retention by the Contractor (Long Form), if all the following conditions apply:

(i) The contractor is other than a small business firm or nonprofit organization.

(ii) No alternative clause is used in accordance with paragraph (c) or (d) of this section or 27.304-2.

(iii) The contracting agency is one of those excepted under subdivision (a)(1)(i) of this section.

(2) If the acquisition of patent rights for the benefit of a foreign government is required under a treaty or executive agreement or if the agency head or a designee determines at the time of contracting that it would be in the national interest to acquire the right to sublicense foreign governments or international organizations pursuant to any existing or future treaty or agreement, the contracting officer shall use the clause at 52.227-12, with its Alternate I. If other rights are necessary to effectuate the treaty or agreement, Alternate I may be appropriately modified. In long term contracts, Alternate II shall be added if necessary to effectuate treaties or agreements to be entered into.

(c)(1) The contracting officer shall insert the clause at 52.227-13, Patent Rights—Acquisition by the Government, if any of the following conditions apply:

(i) No alternative clause is used in accordance with paragraphs (c)(2) and (4) or paragraph (d) of this section or 27.304-2.

(ii) The work is to be performed outside the United States, its possessions, and Puerto Rico by contractors that are not small business firms, nonprofit organizations as defined in 27.301, or domestic firms. For purposes of this paragraph, the contracting officer may presume that a contractor is not a domestic firm unless it is known that the firm is not foreign owned, controlled, or influenced. (See 27.304-4(a) regarding subcontracts with U.S. firms.)

(2) Pursuant to their statutory requirements, DOE and NASA may specify in their supplemental regulations use of a modified version of the clause at 52.227-13 in contracts with other than small business concerns or nonprofit organizations.

(3) If the acquisition of patent rights for the benefit of a foreign government is required under a treaty or executive agreement or if the agency head or a designee determines at the time of contracting that it would be in the national interest to acquire the right to sublicense foreign governments or international organizations pursuant to any existing or future treaty or agreement, the contracting officer shall use the clause with its Alternate I. If other rights are necessary to effectuate the treaty or agreement, Alternate I may be appropriately modified. In long term contracts, Alternate II shall be added if necessary to effectuate treaties or agreements to be entered into.

(4) Section 401 of Title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations provides that in contracts with small business firms and nonprofit organizations, when an agency exercises the exceptions at 27.302(b)(2) or (3) it shall use the clause at 52.227-11, with such modifications as are necessary to address the exceptional circumstances or concerns which led to the use of the exception. The greater rights determinations provision of 52.227-13(b)(2) shall be included in the modified clause.

(d)(1) If one of the following applies, the contracting officer may insert the clause prescribed in paragraph (a) or (b) of this section as otherwise applicable, agency supplemental regulations may provide another clause and specify its use, or the contracting officer shall insert the clause prescribed in paragraph (c) of this section:

(i) The contractor is not located in the United States or does not have a place of business located in the United States or is subject to the control of a foreign government.

(ii) There are exceptional circumstances and the agency head determines that restriction or elimination of the right to retain title to any subject invention will better promote the policy and objectives of Chapter 18 of Title 35 of the United States Code.

(iii) It is determined by a Government authority which is authorized by statute or executive order to conduct foreign intelligence or counterintelligence activities that restriction or elimination of the right to retain any subject invention is necessary to protect the security of such activities.

(iv) The contract includes the operation of a Government-owned, contractor-operated facility of the Department of Energy primarily dedicated to that Department’s naval nuclear propulsion or weapons related programs.

(2) Before using any of the exceptions under paragraph (d)(1) of this section in a contract with a small business firm or a nonprofit organization and before using the exception of subdivision (d)(1)(ii) of this section for any contractor, the agency shall prepare a written determination, including a statement of facts supporting the determination, that the conditions identified in the exception exist. A separate statement of facts shall be prepared for each exceptional circumstances determination, except that in appropriate cases a single determination may apply to both a contract and any subcontracts issued under it, or to any contract to which an exception is applicable. In cases when subdivision (d)(1)(ii) of this section is used, the determination shall also include an analysis justifying the determination. This analysis should address, with specificity, how the alternate provisions will better achieve the objectives set forth in 35 U.S.C. 200. For contracts with small business firms and nonprofit organizations, a copy of each determination, statement of facts, and, if applicable, analysis shall be promptly provided to the contractor or offeror along with a notification of its appeal rights under 35 U.S.C. 202(b)(4) in accordance with 27.304-1(a). In the case of small business and nonprofit contractors, except for determination under subdivision (d)(1)(iii) of this section, the agency shall, within 30 days after award of a contract, also provide copies of each determination, statement of fact, and analysis to the Secretary of Commerce. These shall be sent within 30 days after the award of the contract to which they pertain. In the case of contracts with small business concerns, copies will also be sent to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration.

(e) For those agencies excepted under paragraph (a)(1)(i) of this section, only small business firms or non-profit organizations qualify for the clause at 52.227-11. If one of these agencies has reason to question the status of the prospective contractor, the agency may file a protest in accordance with 13 CFR 121.3-5 if small business firm status is questioned, or require the prospective contractor to furnish evidence of its status as a nonprofit organization.

(f) Alternates I and II to the clauses at 52.227-11, 52.227-12, and 52.227-13, as applicable, may be modified to make clear that the rights granted to the foreign government or international organization may be for additional rights beyond a license or sublicense if so required by the applicable treaty or international agreement. For example, in some cases exclusive licenses or even assignment of title in the foreign country involved might be required. In addition, the Alternate may be modified to provide for direct licensing by the contractor of the foreign government or international organization.

27.304  Procedures.

27.304-1  General.

(a) Contractor appeals of exceptions.

(1) In accordance with 35 U.S.C. 202(b)(4), a small business firm or nonprofit organization contractor has the right to an administrative review of a determination to use one of the exceptions at 27.303(d)(1)(i)–(iv) if the contractor believes that a determination is either (i) contrary to the policies and objectives of this subsection or (ii) constitutes an abuse of discretion by the agency. Paragraphs (a)(2) through (7) of this subsection specify the procedures to be followed by contractors and agencies in such cases. The assertion of such a claim by the contractor shall not be used as a basis for withholding or delaying the award of a contract or for suspending performance under an award. However, pending final resolution of the claim, the contract may be issued with the patent rights provision proposed by the agency; but should the final decision be in favor of the contractor, the contract will be amended accordingly and the amendment made retroactive to the effective date of the contract.

(2) A contractor may appeal a determination by providing written notice to the agency within 30 working days from the time it receives a copy of the agency’s determination, or within such longer time as an agency may specify in its regulations. The contractor’s notice should specifically identify the basis for the appeal.

(3) The appeal shall be decided by the head of the agency or designee who is at a level above the person who made the determination. If the notice raises a genuine dispute over the material facts, the head of the agency or designee shall undertake or refer the matter for fact-finding.

(4) Fact-finding shall be conducted in accordance with procedures established by the agency. Such procedures shall be as informal as practicable and be consistent with principles of fundamental fairness. The procedures should afford the contractor the opportunity to appear with counsel, submit documentary evidence, present witnesses, and confront such persons as the agency may rely upon. A transcribed record shall be made and shall be available at cost to the contractor upon request. The requirement for a transcribed record may be waived by mutual agreement of the contractor and the agency.

(5) The official conducting the fact-finding shall prepare or adopt written findings of fact and transmit them to the head of the agency or designee promptly after the conclusion of the fact-finding proceeding along with a recommended decision. A copy of the findings of fact and recommended decision shall be sent to the contractor by registered or certified mail.

(6) Fact-finding should be completed within 45 working days from the date the agency receives the contractor’s written notice.

(7) When fact-finding has been conducted, the head of the agency or designee shall base his or her decision on the facts found, together with any argument submitted by the contractor, agency officials, or any other information in the administrative record. In cases referred for fact-finding, the agency head or designee may reject only those facts that have been found to be clearly erroneous, but must explicitly state the rejection and indicate the basis for the contrary finding. The agency head or designee may hear oral arguments after fact-finding provided that the contractor or contractor’s attorney or representative is present and given an opportunity to make arguments and rebuttal. The decision of the agency head or designee shall be in writing and if it is unfavorable to the contractor, include an explanation of the basis of the decision. The decision of the agency or designee shall be made within 30 working days after fact-finding or, if there was no fact-finding, within 45 working days from the date the agency received the contractor’s written notice. In accordance with 35 U.S.C. 203, a small business firm or a nonprofit organization contractor adversely affected by a determination under this section may, at any time within 60 days after the determination is issued, file a petition in the United States Claims Court, which shall have jurisdiction to determine the appeal on the record and to affirm, reverse, remand, or modify, as appropriate, the determination of the Federal agency.

(b) Greater rights determinations. Whenever the contract contains the clause at 52.227-13, Patent Rights—Acquisition by the Government, the contractor (or an employee-inventor of the contractor after consultation with the contractor) may request greater rights to an identified invention within the period specified in such clause. Requests for greater rights may be granted if the agency head or designee determines that the interests of the United States and the general public will be better served thereby. In making such determinations, the agency head or designee shall consider at least the following objectives:

(1) Promoting the utilization of inventions arising from federally-supported research and development.

(2) Ensuring that inventions are used in a manner to promote full and open competition and free enterprise.

(3) Promoting public availability of inventions made in the United States by United States industry and labor.

(4) Ensuring that the Government obtains sufficient rights in federally-supported inventions to meet the needs of the Government and protect the public against nonuse or unreasonable use of inventions.

(c) Retention of rights by inventor. If the contractor does not elect to retain title to a subject invention, the agency may consider and, after consultation with the contractor, grant requests for retention of rights by the inventor. Retention of rights by the inventor will be subject to the conditions in paragraph (d) (except paragraphs (d)(1)), (f)(4), and paragraphs (h), (i), and (j) of the applicable Patent Rights—Retention by the Contractor clause).

(d) Government assignment to contractor of rights in Government employees’ inventions. When a Government employee is a coinventor of an invention made under a contract with a small business firm or nonprofit organization, the agency employing the coinventor may transfer or reassign whatever right it may acquire in the subject invention from its employee to the contractor, subject at least to the conditions of 35 U.S.C. 202-204.

(e) Additional requirements.

(1) If it is desired to have the right to require any of the following, when using the clause at 52.227-11, Patent Rights—Retention by the Contractor (Short Form), the contract shall be modified to require the contractor to do one or more of the following:

(i) Provide periodic (but not more frequently than annually) listings of all subject inventions required to be disclosed during the period covered by the report.

(ii) Provide a report prior to the closeout of the contract listing all subject inventions or stating that there were none.

(iii) Provide, upon request, the filing date, serial number, and title; a copy of the patent application; and patent number and issue date for any subject invention in any country in which the contractor has applied for patents.

(iv) Furnish the Government an irrevocable power to inspect and make copies of the patent application file when a Federal Government employee is a coinventor.

(2) To the extent provided by such modification (and automatically under the terms of the clauses at 52.227-12, Patent Rights—Retention by the Contractor (Long Form), and 52.227-13, Patent Rights—Acquisition by the Government, the contracting officer may require the contractor to—

(i) Furnish a copy of each subcontract containing a patent rights clause (but if a copy of a subcontract is furnished under another clause, a duplicate shall not be requested under the patent rights clause);

(ii) Submit interim and final invention reports listing subject inventions and notifying the contracting officer of all subcontracts awarded for experimental, developmental, or research work;

(iii) Submit information regarding the filing date, serial number and title, and, upon request, a copy of the patent application, and patent number and issue date for any subject invention in any country for which the contractor has retained title; and

(iv) Submit periodic reports on the utilization of a subject invention or on efforts at obtaining utilization that are being made by the contractor or its licensees or assignees.

(3) The contractor is required to deliver to the contracting officer an instrument confirmatory of all rights to which the Government is entitled and to furnish the Government an irrevocable power to inspect and make copies of the patent application file. Such delivery should normally be made within 6 months after filing each patent application, or within 6 months after submitting the invention disclosure if the application has been previously filed.

(f) Revocation or modification of contractor’s minimum rights. Before revocation or modification of the contractor’s license in accordance with 27.302(i)(2), the contracting officer will furnish the contractor a written notice of intention to revoke or modify the license, and the contractor will be allowed 30 days (or such other time as may be authorized by the contracting officer for good cause shown by the contractor) after the notice to show cause why the license should not be revoked or modified. The contractor has the right to appeal, in accordance with applicable regulations in 37 CFR Part 404 and agency licensing regulations, any decisions concerning the revocation or modification.

(g) Exercise of march-in rights. The following procedures shall govern the exercise of the march-in rights set forth in 35 U.S.C. 203, paragraph (j) of the Patent Rights—Retention by the Contractor clauses, and subdivision (c)(1)(ii) of the Patent Rights—Acquisition by the Government clause:

(1) When the agency receives information that it believes might warrant the exercise of march-in rights, before initiating any march-in proceeding in accordance with the procedures of paragraph (g)(2) of this section, it shall notify the contractor in writing of the information and request informal written or oral comments from the contractor. In the absence of any comments from the contractor within 30 days the agency may, at its discretion, initiate the procedures below. If a comment is received, whether or not within 30 days, then the agency shall, within 60 days after it receives the comment, either initiate the procedures below or notify the contractor, in writing, that it will not pursue march- in rights based on the information about which the contractor was notified.

(2) A march-in proceeding shall be initiated by the issuance of a written notice by the agency head or a designee to the contractor and its assignee or exclusive licensee, as applicable and if known to the agency, stating that the Government has determined to exercise march-in rights. The notice shall state the reasons for the proposed march-in, in terms sufficient to put the contractor on notice of the facts upon which the action is based, and shall specify the field or fields of use in which the Government is considering requiring licensing. The notice shall advise the contractor, assignee, or exclusive licensee of its rights as set forth in this section and in any supplemental agency regulations or procedures. The determination to exercise march-in rights shall be made by the head of the agency or designee.

(3) Within 30 days after the receipt of the written notice of march-in, the contractor, its assignee or exclusive licensee, may submit in person, in writing, or through a representative information or argument in opposition to the proposed march-in, including any additional specific information which raises a genuine dispute over the material facts upon which the march-in is based. If the information presented raises a genuine dispute over the material facts, the head of the agency or designee shall undertake or refer the matter to another official for fact-finding.

(4) Fact-finding shall be conducted in accordance with the procedures established by the agency. Such procedures shall be as informal as practicable and be consistent with principles of fundamental fairness. The procedures should afford the contractor the opportunity to appear with counsel, submit documentary evidence, present witnesses, and confront such persons as the agency may present. A transcribed record shall be made and shall be available at cost to the contractor upon request. The requirement for a transcribed record may be waived by mutual agreement of the contractor and the agency. Any portion of the march-in proceeding, including a fact-finding hearing that involves testimony or evidence relating to the utilization or efforts at obtaining utilization that are being made by the contractor, its assignee, or licensees shall be closed to the public, including potential licensees. In accordance with 35 U.S.C. 202(c)(5), agencies shall not disclose any such information obtained during a march-in proceeding to persons outside the Government except when such release is authorized by the contractor, its assignee, or licensee.

(5) The official conducting the fact-finding shall prepare or adopt written findings of fact and transmit them to the head of the agency or designee promptly after the conclusion of the fact-finding proceeding along with a recommended determination. A copy of the findings of fact shall be sent to the contractor, its assignee, or exclusive licensee by registered or certified mail. The contractor, its assignee or exclusive licensee, and agency representatives will be given 30 days to submit written arguments to the head of the agency or designee; and, upon request by the contractor, oral arguments will be held before the agency head or designee that will make the final determination.

(6) In cases in which fact-finding has been conducted, the head of the agency or designee shall base his or her determination on the facts found, together with any other information and written or oral arguments submitted by the contractor, its assignee or exclusive licensee and agency representatives, and any other information in the administrative record. The consistency of the exercise of march-in rights with the policy and objectives of 35 U.S.C. 200 shall also be considered. In cases referred for fact-finding, the head of the agency or designee may reject only those facts that have been found to be clearly erroneous, but must explicitly state the rejection and indicate the basis for the contrary finding. Written notice of the determination whether march-in rights will be exercised shall be made by the head of the agency or designee and sent to the contractor, its assignee, or exclusive licensee, by certified or registered mail within 90 days after the completion of fact-finding or 90 days after oral arguments, whichever is later, or the proceedings will be deemed to have been terminated and thereafter no march-in based on the facts and reasons upon which the proceeding was initiated may be exercised.

(7) An agency may, at any time, terminate a march-in proceeding if it is satisfied that it does not wish to exercise march-in rights.

(8) These procedures shall also apply to the exercise of march-in rights against inventors receiving title to subject inventions under 35 U.S.C. 202(d) and, for that purpose, the term “contractor,” as used herein, shall be deemed to include the inventory and the term “exclusive licensee” shall be deemed to include partially exclusive licensee.

(9) An agency determination unfavorable to the contractor, its assignee, or exclusive licensee shall be held in abeyance pending the exhaustion of appeals or petitions filed under 35 U.S.C. 203(2).

(h) Licenses and assignments under contracts with nonprofit organizations. If the contractor is a nonprofit organization, the clause at 52.227-11 provides that certain contractor actions require agency approval, as specified below. Agencies shall provide procedures for obtaining such approval. Rights to a subject invention in the United States may not be assigned without the approval of the contracting agency, except where such assignment is made to an organization which has as one of its primary functions the management of inventions (provided that such assignee will be subject to the same provisions as the contractor).

27.304-2  Contracts placed by or for other Government agencies.

The following procedures apply unless agency agreements provide otherwise:

(a) When a Government agency requests another Government agency to award a contract on its behalf, the request should explain any special circumstances surrounding the contract and specify and furnish the patent rights clause to be used. Normally, the clause will be in accordance with the policies and procedures of this subpart. If, however, the request states that a clause of the requesting agency is required (e.g., because of statutory requirements, a deviation, or exceptional circumstances) that clause shall be used rather than those of this subpart.

(1) If the request states that an agency clause is required and the work to be performed under the contract is not severable and is funded wholly or in part by the agency, then that agency clause and no other patent rights clause shall be included in the contract.

(2) If the request states that an agency clause is required, and the work to be performed under the contract is severable and is only in part for the requesting agency, then the work which is on behalf of the requesting agency shall be identified in the contract, and the agency clause shall be made applicable to that portion. In such situations, the remaining portion of the work (for the agency awarding the contract) shall likewise be identified and the appropriate patent rights clause (if required) shall be made applicable to that remaining portion.

(3) If the request states that an agency clause is not required in any resulting contract, then the appropriate patent rights clause shall be used, if a patent rights clause is required.

(b) Where use of the specified clause, or any modification, waiver, or omission of the Government’s rights under any provisions therein, requires a written determination, the reporting of such determination, or a deviation, if any such acts are required in accordance with 27.303(d)(2), it shall be the responsibility of the requesting agency to make such determination, submit the required reports, and obtain such deviations, in consultation with the contracting agency, unless otherwise agreed between the contracting and requesting agencies. However, a deviation to a specified clause of the requesting agency shall not be made without prior approval of that agency.

(c) The requesting agency may require, and provide instructions regarding, the forwarding or handling of any invention disclosures or other reporting requirements of the specified clauses. Normally the requesting agency shall be responsible for the handling of any disclosed inventions, including the filing of patent applications where the Government receives title, and the custody, control, and licensing thereof, unless provided otherwise in the instructions or other agreements with the contracting agency.

27.304-3  Contracts for construction work or architect-engineer services.

(a) If a solicitation or contract for construction work or architect-engineer services has as a purpose the performance of experimental, developmental, or research work or test and evaluation studies involving such work and calls for, or can be expected to involve, the design of a Government facility or of novel structures, machines, products, materials, processes, or equipment (including construction equipment), it shall include a patent rights clause selected in accordance with the policies and procedures of this Subpart 27.3.

(b) A solicitation or contract for construction work or architect-engineer services that calls for or can be expected to involve only “standard types of construction” to be built by previously developed equipment, methods, and processes shall not include a patent rights clause. The term “standard types of construction” means construction in which the distinctive features, if any, in all likelihood will amount to no more than—

(1) Variations in size, shape, or capacity of otherwise structurally orthodox and conventionally acting structures or structural groupings; or

(2) Purely artistic or esthetic (as distinguished from functionally significant) architectural configurations and designs of both structural and nonstructural members or groupings, which may or may not be sufficiently novel or meritorious to qualify for design protection under the design patent or copyright laws.

27.304-4  Subcontracts.

(a) The policies and procedures covered by this subpart apply to all contracts at any tier. Hence, a contractor awarding a subcontract and a subcontractor awarding a lower-tier subcontract that has as a purpose the conduct of experimental, developmental, or research work is required to determine the appropriate patent rights clause to be included that is consistent with these policies and procedures. Generally, the clause at either 52.227-11, 52.227-12, or 52.227-13 is to be used and will be so specified in the patent rights clause contained in the higher-tier contract, but the contracting officer may direct the use of a particular patent rights clause in any lower-tier contract in accordance with the policies and procedures of this subpart. For instance, when the clause at 52.227-13 is in the prime contract because the work is to be performed overseas, any subcontract with a nonprofit organization would contain the clause at 52.227-11.

(b) Whenever a prime contractor or a subcontractor considers the inclusion of a particular clause in a subcontract to be inappropriate or a subcontractor refuses to accept the proffered clause, the matter shall be resolved by the agency contracting officer in consultation with counsel.

(c) It is Government policy that contractors shall not use their ability to award subcontracts as economic leverage to acquire rights for themselves in inventions resulting from subcontracts.

27.304-5  Appeals.

(a) The agency official initially authorized to take any of the following actions shall provide the contractor with a written statement of the basis for the action at the time the action is taken, including any relevant facts that were relied upon in taking the action:

(1) A refusal to grant an extension to the invention disclosure period under paragraph (c)(4) of the clauses at 52.227-11 and 52.227-12.

(2) A request for a conveyance of title to the Government under 27.302(d)(1)(i) through (v).

(3) A refusal to grant a waiver under 27.302(g), Preference for U.S. Industry.

(4) A refusal to approve an assignment under 27.304-1(h)(1).

(5) A refusal to approve an extension of the exclusive license period under 27.304-1(h)(2).

(b) Each agency shall establish and publish procedures under which any of the agency actions listed in paragraph (a) of this subsection may be appealed to the head of the agency or designee. Review at this level shall consider both the factual and legal basis for the action and its consistency with the policy and objectives of 35 U.S.C. 200-206 and this subpart.

(c) Appeals procedures established under paragraph (b) of this subsection shall include administrative due process procedures and standards for fact-finding at least comparable to those set forth in 37 CFR Part 401.6(e)–(g) whenever there is a dispute as to the factual basis for an agency request for a conveyance of title under 27.302(d)(1)(i) through (v) including any dispute as to whether or not an invention is a subject invention.

(d) To the extent that any of the actions described in paragraph (a) of this subsection are subject to appeal under the Contract Disputes Act, the procedures under that Act will satisfy the requirements of paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subsection.

27.305  Administration of patent rights clauses.

27.305-1  Patent rights follow-up.

(a) It is important that the Government and the contractor know and exercise their rights in inventions conceived or first actually reduced to practice in the course of or under Government contracts in order to ensure their expeditious availability to the public and to enable the Government, the contractor, and the public to avoid unnecessary payment of royalties and to defend themselves against claims and suits for patent infringement. To attain these ends, contracts having a patent rights clause should be so administered that—

(1) Inventions are identified, disclosed, and reported as required by the contract, and elections are made;

(2) The rights of the Government in such inventions are established;

(3) Where patent protection is appropriate, patent applications are timely filed and prosecuted by contractors or by the Government;

(4) The rights of the Government in filed patent applications are documented by formal instruments such as licenses or assignments; and

(5) Expeditious commercial utilization of such inventions is achieved.

(b) If a subject invention is made under funding agreements of more than one agency, at the request of the contractor or on their own initiative, the agencies shall designate one agency as responsible for administration of the rights of the Government in the invention.

27.305-2  Follow-up by contractor.

(a) Contractor procedures. If required by the applicable clause, the contractor shall establish and maintain effective procedures to ensure its patent rights obligations are met and that subject inventions are timely identified and disclosed, and when appropriate, patent applications are filed.

(b) Contractor reports. Contractors shall submit all reports required by the patent rights clause to the contracting officer or other representative designated for such purpose in the contract. Agencies may, in their implementing instructions, provide specific forms for use on an optional basis for such reporting.

27.305-3  Follow-up by Government.

(a) Agencies shall maintain appropriate follow-up procedures to protect the Government’s interest and to check that subject inventions are identified and disclosed, and when appropriate, patent applications are filed, and that the Government’s rights therein are established and protected. Follow-up activities for contracts that include a clause referenced in 27.304-2 shall be coordinated with the appropriate agency.

(b) The contracting officer administering the contract (or other representative specifically designated in the contract for such purpose) is responsible for receiving invention disclosures, reports, confirmatory instruments, notices, requests, and other documents and information submitted by the contractor pursuant to a patent rights clause. If the contractor fails to furnish documents or information as called for by the clause within the time required, the contracting officer shall promptly request the contractor to supply the required documents or information and, if the failure persists, shall take appropriate action to secure compliance. Invention disclosures, reports, confirmatory instruments, notices, requests, and other documents and information relating to patent rights clauses shall be promptly furnished by the contracting officer administering the contract (or other designee) to the procuring agency or contracting activity for which the procurement was made for appropriate action.

(c) Contracting activities shall establish appropriate procedures to detect and correct failures by the contractor to comply with its obligations under the patent rights clauses, such as failures to disclose and report subject inventions, both during and after contract performance. Ordinarily a contractor should have written instructions for its employees covering compliance with these contract obligations. Government effort to review and correct contractor compliance with its patent rights obligations should be directed primarily towards contracts that, because of the nature of the research, development, or experimental work or the large dollar amount spent on such work, are more likely to result in subject inventions significant in number or quality, and towards contracts when there is reason to believe the contractors may not be complying with their contractual obligations. Other contracts may be reviewed using a spot-check method, as feasible. Appropriate follow-up procedures and activities may include the investigation or review of selected contracts or contractors by those qualified in patent and technical matters to detect failures to comply with contract obligations.

(d) Follow-up activities should include, where appropriate, use of Government patent personnel—

(1) To interview agency technical personnel to identify novel developments made in contracts;

(2) To review technical reports submitted by contractors with cognizant agency technical personnel;

(3) To check the Official Gazette of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and other sources for patents issued to the contractor in fields related to its Government contracts; and

(4) If additional information is required, to have cognizant Government personnel interview contractor personnel regarding work under the contract involved, observe the work on site, and inspect laboratory notebooks and other records of the contractor related to work under the contract.

(e) If it is determined that a contractor or subcontractor does not have a clear understanding of the rights and obligations of the parties under a patent rights clause, or that its procedures for complying with the clause are deficient, a post-award orientation conference or letter should ordinarily be used to explain these rights and obligations (see Subpart 42.5). When a contractor fails to establish, maintain, or follow effective procedures for identifying, disclosing, and, when appropriate, filing patent applications on inventions (if such procedures are required by the patent rights clause), or after appropriate notice fails to correct any deficiency, the contracting officer may require the contractor to make available for examination books, records, and documents relating to the contractor’s inventions in the same field of technology as the contract effort to enable a determination of whether there are such inventions and may invoke the withholding of payments provision (if any) of the clause. The withholding of payments provision (if any) of the patent rights clause or of any other contract clause may also be invoked if the contractor fails to disclose a subject invention. Significant or repeated failures by a contractor to comply with the patent rights obligation in its contracts shall be documented and made a part of the general file (see 4.801(c)(3)).

27.305-4  Conveyance of invention rights acquired by the Government.

(a) Agencies are responsible for those procedures necessary to protect the Government’s interest in subject inventions. When the Government acquires the entire right, title, and interest in an invention by contract, this is normally accomplished by an assignment either from each inventor to the contractor and from the contractor to the Government, or from the inventor to the Government with the consent of the contractor, so that the chain of title from the inventor to the Government is clearly established. When the Government’s rights are limited to a license, there should be a confirmatory instrument to that effect.

(b) The form of conveyance of title from the inventor to the contractor must be legally sufficient to convey the rights the contractor is required to convey to the Government. Agencies may, by supplemental instructions, develop suitable assignments, licenses, and other papers evidencing any rights of the Government in patents or patents applications, including such instruments as may be required to be recorded in the Statutory Register or documented in the Government Register maintained by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office pursuant to Executive Order 9424, February 18, 1944.

27.305-5  Publication or release of invention disclosures.

(a) In accordance with the policy at 27.302(i), to protect their mutual interests, contractors and the Government should cooperate in deferring the publication or release of invention disclosures until the filing of the first patent application, and use their best efforts to achieve prompt filing when publication or release may be imminent. The Government will, on its part and to the extent authorized by 35 U.S.C. 205, withhold from disclosure to the public any invention disclosures reported under the patent rights clauses of 52.227-11, 52.227-12, or 52.227-13 for a reasonable time in order for patent applications to be filed. The policy in 27.302(i) regarding protection of confidentiality shall be followed.

(b) The Government will also use reasonable efforts to withhold from disclosure to the public for a reasonable time other information disclosing a reported invention included in any data delivered pursuant to contract requirements; provided, that the contractor notifies the agency as to the identity of the data and the invention to which it relates at the time of delivery of the data. Such notification must be to both the contracting officer and any patent representative to which the invention is reported, if other than the contracting officer.

(c) As an additional protection for small business firms and nonprofit organizations 37 CFR Part 401 prescribes that agencies shall not disclose or release, in accordance with 35 U.S.C. 205, for a period of 18 months from the filing date of the application to third parties pursuant to request under the Freedom of Information Act or otherwise copies of any document which the agency obtained under contract which is part of an application for patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office or any foreign patent office filed by the contractor (or its assignees, licensees, or employees) on a subject invention to which the contractor has elected to retain title. This prohibition does not extend to disclosure to other Government agencies or contractors of Government agencies under an obligation to maintain such information in confidence.

27.306  Licensing background patent rights to third parties.

(a) A contract with a small business firm or nonprofit organization will not contain a provision allowing the Government to require the licensing to third parties of inventions owned by the contractor that are not subject inventions unless such provision has been approved by the agency head and written justification has been signed by the agency head. Any such provision will clearly state whether the licensing may be required in connection with the practice of a subject invention, a specifically identified work object, or both. The agency head may not delegate the authority to approve such provisions or to sign justifications required for such provisions.

(b) The Government will not require the licensing of third parties under any such provision unless the agency head determines that the use of the invention by others is necessary for the practice of a subject invention or for the use of a work object of the contract and that such action is necessary to achieve the practical application of the subject invention or work object. Any such determination will be on the record after an opportunity for a hearing, and the contractor shall be given notification of the determination by certified or registered mail. The notification shall include a statement that any action commenced for judicial review of such determination must be brought by the contractor within 60 days after the notification.


Previous Next