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Solicitor General supports schools in Stanford v. Roche patent case

Last week Tuesday, the United States Solicitor General filed a brief before the Supreme Court in Stanford v. Roche, a case about technology transfer from universities to private industry. MIT and university advocacy groups had also filed briefs last spring. The Supreme Court had deferred deciding whether to accept the case, and asked the acting Solicitor General for his opinion.

The Solicitor General strongly supported the side of Stanford University and its peers, including MIT. He is asking the court to accept the case, and to decide in favor of Stanford.

The brief argues that Bayh-Dole, a 1980 technology transfer law, prevents a federally funded inventor at an institution like Stanford from assigning his invention to a third party.

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit previously found in favor of Roche, saying that the specific language of an agreement the inventor signed could affect whether Stanford held title to the invention under Bayh-Dole.

The government said the appeals court decision “creates serious uncertainty” about the ownership of patents and “frustrates Congress’s efforts to foster scientific research and development.”

The Acting Solicitor General is Neal Kumar Katyal; he replaced Elena Kagan, who starts her first term as a Supreme Court Justice this month.

John A. Hawkinson