What Is an Evaluation License, and Is It Right for You?

June 6,2022
Kim Middleton
Kim Middleton NASA Langley
Technology Portfolio Manager
Langley Research Center
thinking it through

When initiating licensing discussions with our customers, one of the questions I’m often asked is, "What type of license is right for my situation?" Even though every situation is different, our Automated Technology Licensing Application System (ATLAS) will help you find the right option. However, special circumstances might need to be considered, so talking with a Technology Transfer representative can help you find the best fit for your business goals.

pen to paper
NASA's evaluation license has become a very popular option in the last decade.

One of our program's most popular licenses is an evaluation license – the "try it before you buy it" option.

This gives you a year (or so...) to test and evaluate the claims of a patent to see if it can be useful for your future commercialization prospects. One restriction to keep in mind is that the company holding the license cannot make or sell a product derived from the NASA patent during this time.

If you're exploring the possibility of licensing NASA technology, you may want to learn more about our evaluation license to see if it might be right for you. Below are some of the most common questions asked about “try it before you buy it.”

What is the difference between an evaluation license and a commercial license? 

The evaluation license cannot be used to make or sell a similar product. The commercial license allows you to develop, make, market and sell a product. 

Does an evaluation license allow you to interact with an inventor?

Yes, we typically allow eight hours of interaction with the inventor once the license is executed. We’re happy to set up a meeting with the inventor before licensing to make sure the claims in the patent will meet your needs.

Is an evaluation license better for a smaller or larger company? 

It is equally suitable for both. We don’t want you to think it’s necessary to have a commercial license for a patent if it won’t be useful, regardless the size of the business.

Can you share an example of a situation when a company pursued a commercial license but then chose an evaluation license? Why? 

During the initial discussion between the company representative and the inventor, the company representative wasn’t sure if the patent claims would meet the technology development needs. Rather than applying for the more costly commercial license, the Licensing Manager recommended taking time to explore the claims with the technologists who are in a better position to understand the details and if they meet the company’s needs.

How does an evaluation license differ from a non-disclosure agreement?

A non-disclosure agreement simply ensures that information shared between the inventor and the company won’t be shared elsewhere. The evaluation license allows you to try out and evaluate the claims of the patent.

In what cases would you recommend an evaluation license to a company or person? 

If an applicant is unsure if the patent will work for the company's/persons expressed needs, I recommend the evaluation option.

What are the risks of starting with the evaluation license before a commercial license?

Almost no risk is involved. Even though there’s a fee for the evaluation license, it’s usually deducted from the upfront costs of a commercial license.

Still have questions? That’s understandable. Every licensing situation is different, so our team of Technology Transfer representatives across NASA is here to help you make the best choice. Perhaps we'll be hearing from you soon!

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