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Getting Started: What you need to know about NASA's Technologies
NASA employs some of the world’s most skilled and innovative scientists and engineers to push the boundaries of what humans think is possible. Through the course of this work, we conquer challenges that have never been met before. We work in extreme environments where failure is not an option. Our work demands precision and rigor. Testing and validation for our new technologies is second-to-none.
The work that we do often has direct applicability to non-aerospace uses. For example, the medical devices and protocols that keep our astronauts safe can easily be translated to keeping people safe and healthy on earth, especially in emergency medical settings or in remote areas. The technology we design to withstand the rigors of space—radiation, extreme temperatures, the intensity of launch—often find home in manufacturing environments. Challenges we face in space exploration, such as power generation and storage, recycling of waste materials, development of lightweight materials, all have analogs here on Earth. And the sensors and instruments we develop for satellites similarly find themselves in a variety of other uses. It is our goal to make sure that this work is shared with the public.
To accomplish this, NASA maintains a portfolio of patents that we believe have commercial potential. We make these technologies available to academia and industry through our patent licensing program with a variety of U.S. and foreign patents.
A license must be granted before a company may use, make, sell, practice, or operate inventions in the country where the patent is issued. The process is simple. Read on to learn how to get started.
Finding NASA Technologies Available For Licensing
The NASA Patent Portfolio, located on the Technology Transfer Portal at technology.nasa.gov, is the easiest way to find all of the NASA inventions available for licensing.
The portfolio is divided into fifteen categories: aeronautics, communications, electrical/electronics, environment, health/medicine and biotechnology, IT and software, instrumentation, manufacturing, materials and coatings, mechanical and fluid systems, optics, power generation and storage, propulsion, robotics/automation and control and sensors.
The patents in each category are presented as index cards with an image and brief description of the technology. Click on the image to get more technical and contact information, as well as the benefits and potential applications of the invention. Click Apply Now to License This Technology if you are interested in applying for a license agreement.
Applying for a NASA Patent License Using ATLAS
NASA makes the patent license application process simple with our Automated Technology Licensing Application System (ATLAS).
ATLAS will guide you through the licensing application with a series of questions.
Information needed for the license application in ATLAS may include supporting documentation such as a certificate of incorporation, a financial statement, a business/commercialization plan, a projected revenue/royalty spreadsheet and a company balance sheet. At a minimum, all license applicants must submit a satisfactory plan for the development and/or marketing of an invention.
After you complete the application, click the submit button in ATLAS and the application will be transmitted to the license manager. After you have submitted your license application using ATLAS, the licensing manager will reach out to you to discuss the next steps in transferring this technology to you.
Qualifying for a NASA Patent License
NASA wants to ensure that companies that seek to commercialize our technologies have a solid business plan for bringing the technology to market. To make this determination, we review the completed license application and supporting documents. Generally, this includes an assessment of the applicant’s plan for developing or marketing the invention, a general understanding of the market space the applicant is hoping to enter, and access to the resources necessary to bring this technology to market.
Negotiating a NASA Patent License
After the company qualifies for a license, the terms of the agreement, such as amounts and dates of royalty payments, field(s) of use, geographic locations for manufacturing and product sales are negotiated between the company and the license manager. The license manager then prepares the draft license based on the terms agreed to between the company and the license manager. After the license agreement is completed and signed by the company, it is executed by the NASA Signing Official.
Other Considerations for Licensing
A potential applicant or a prospective licensee may request a visit to a NASA center to observe a technology demonstration, talk with the inventor(s) in person, discuss terms with the license manager, and/or participate in a license signing ceremony. Occasionally, the license applicant or interested party may be asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement before NASA shares detailed technical information about the invention if that information has not been made available to the public. All of these activities can be discussed with the license manager at the appropriate time in the process.
Contacting the Technology Transfer Office
If at any point, you would like to speak to a NASA representative about the licensing process or a specific technology, please reach out to us. We are happy to help.
Each invention write-up includes contact information for a technology transfer specialist familiar with that technology and the overall licensing process. Contact information can also be found on the second page of each PDF fact sheet.
The main page of our portal also has a link to our network directory.
Types of licenses
Nonexclusive agreements are the most commonly sought commercial licenses. Nonexclusive licenses can be granted to more than one company.
An exclusive or partially exclusive commercial license gives a company exclusive or a limited exclusive access to NASA inventions. They require greater burdens on the part of the company, including higher royalties. Exclusivity may be limited to a specific market application, field of use, or geographic region, or to a fixed period of time (e.g., five years), after which the agreement converts to a nonexclusive license.
NASA must publish notices of prospective exclusive licenses in the Federal Register.
An evaluation license allows your company to internally evaluate the inventions for a short period.
Startup companies are eligible for special licensing/royalty rates through our Startup NASA program. These include no up-front costs and no minimum fees for the first three years of the license. Not all technologies are available for this type of license.