The AUTM contributes much of the success in university technology transfer and the resulting economic and health benefits to the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980:
Co-sponsored by Senators Birch Bayh and Robert Dole, the Bayh-Dole Act enabled universities, nonprofit research institutions and small businesses to own and patent inventions developed under federally funded research programs. Before the passage of this legislation, new discoveries resulting from federally sponsored research passed immediately into the public domain. The provisions of the act, however, provided an incentive for universities to protect their innovations and, therefore, for industry to make high-risk investments resulting in products made from those innovations.
Universities share proceeds from commercialization with inventors. Although formulas vary, inventors typically receive about one-third of the total. In many cases, additional allocations from the institution’s share go to their school, department, or laboratory.
Obviously, allowing universities to generate profits for themselves and the companies that license the inventions, while the research is funded by tax-payers, does raise questions and criticism. Who should own science? In the past years, several books have been published that critique the commercialization of research (and other academic capitalist activities in the knowledge factory / university in ruins) or at least point to the risk of the market or the paradox of the marketplace.
Despite all the criticism, the US approach to technology transfer is still used as the model for many non-US universities. Their approach is increasingly being copied in countries in Europe and Asia and other parts of the world.