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  • Writer's pictureSheila Gibson, Esq

How NASA uses patents to actively foster innovation

National Space Day! 🔭 Have you ever seen a space shuttle up close??? I love that I live so close to the Endeavor on display at the California Science Center!

Did you know that 1 in every 1,000 patents is issued to a NASA scientist? Crazy right? NASA is listed as the assignee on over 4,500 patents issued between 1969 and 2013.

A common misconception about patents I sometimes hear is that certain inventions should be freely shared, not patented. The confusion stems from the property right provided by a patent to exclude others from making, using, selling, or importing the claimed invention. Some hear this and focus on the word "exclude," but the key here is the "right" to exclude. A "right" does not require a patent owner to exclude others, much the same way the front door to your home does not require you to exclude everyone from your home (but is sure is nice to have the right to exclude some people!).

A patent owner is free to allow anyone and everyone to use a patented invention, and can pick and choose who may use it and who may not. Allowing others to use the claimed invention can be accomplished through agreements, licensing, non-enforcement, or even actively donating the patented technology to the public domain. The point is, the patent owner, not the patent, is controlling the outcome.

To help actively foster entrepreneurship, in 2016 NASA released 56 formerly-patented agency technologies into the public domain thereby making some of its technologies freely available for unrestricted commercial use. NASA also provides a searchable database that holds thousands of expired NASA patents that are already available for unrestricted commercial use because they are expired. While NASA's patents are developed to help advance space missions. Many of their inventions have led to products you probably have in your home! Here are 10 everyday technologies that we can thank NASA for: ⁣ ⁣

🤳Your Cell Phone Camera ⁣ 🍼Enriched Baby Foods ⁣ 🛠Cordless Tools ⁣ 😁Invisible Braces⁣ 💧Water Filters⁣ 🎮Joysticks ⁣ 👓Scratch Resistent Lenses ⁣ 👟Shoe Insoles ⁣ 🌍Aerial Footage ⁣ 👂Cochlear Implants

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