Getting Started: What you need to know about NASA's Technologies
The U.S. government, as represented by NASA, has an ownership interest in a variety of U.S. and foreign patents. Each of NASA’s 10 field centers has a Technology Transfer Office that manages the center's portfolio of patented and patent-pending inventions. A license must be granted before a company may use, make, sell, practice, or operate inventions in the country where the patent is issued.
Finding and Identifying NASA Technologies Available For Licensing
The NASA Patent Portfolio, located on the Technology Transfer Portal (T2P) at technology.nasa.gov, is the easiest way to find and read about all 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.
Contacting the Technology Transfer Office
After a company identifies a NASA invention of interest for licensing in the Patent Portfolio, you may wish to contact the license manager at the NASA center’s Technology Transfer Office. The license manager can explain the types of licenses available and the information that needs to be provided to NASA in order to apply for a license. The center's Technology Transfer Office point-of-contact is located on the opening page of the invention in the Patent Portfolio and on page 2 of the fact sheet. The license manager can also provide guidance and a description of the supporting documentation you may need to submit in ATLAS for consideration.
Applying for a NASA Patent License Using ATLAS
The 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 license manager will contact you if more information is needed.
Qualifying for a NASA Patent License
The completed license application and supporting documents are received by the license manager for internal NASA review. The applicant will be notified by the license manager once a decision on qualifications is made. Normally, a company that meets the requirements in 37 CFR Part 404, Licensing of Government Owed Inventions, will qualify for a license.
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 before drafting the preliminary license agreement. The license manager 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.
This easy-to-follow flow chart provides the reader with a general overview of the licensing process:
37 CFR Part 404, Licensing of Government-Owned Inventions
Types of licenses:
The categories of exclusive licenses include exclusive in all fields of use, co-exclusive, and partially exclusive with a limited field of use. All prospective grants of exclusive licenses must be published in the Federal Register for 15 days before the license is granted.
The categories of non-exclusive licenses include evaluation/research, start-up, end-user, "Quick-Launch," and a traditional non-exclusive license.