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ACS issues policy statement on intellectual property

Society offers guidance on patents, copyrights, and trade secrets

by Linda Wang
January 15, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 3

Laura Pence teaches a workshop on advocacy.
Credit: Karen Garcia
ACS Board member Laura Pence coaches new advocates who are preparing to engage with legislators during an advocacy workshop in August 2017.

The American Chemical Society has issued a new policy statement on intellectual property aimed at encouraging scientific innovation and scholarly advancement in the U.S. More specifically, the statement makes recommendations related to patents, copyrights, and trade secrets. Additionally, the society has revised five existing policy statements and renewed five other statements without substantial revision.

Give your input on policy statements at

ACS currently has 28 policy statements in four broad areas of interest to the society’s membership: fostering innovation through research and technology; strengthening science education and the scientific workforce; advancing sustainability and the environment; and promoting science in the public policy arena.

Policy statements are developed by one or more ACS committees with input from ACS members. The ACS Committee on Public Affairs & Public Relations (PA&PR) reviews the statements on behalf of the ACS Board. Once approved, policy statements are active for three years before they’re up for renewal or retirement.

“The policy statements that are approved are the guidelines for addressing initiatives either in the administration or in Congress that relate to chemistry and the chemistry enterprise,” says John Adams, immediate past chair of PA&PR and current ACS board chair. “The policy statements tend to be broad statements of principle, and as a result they can be applicable over an extended period of time.”

The new policy statement on intellectual property was developed by the Committee on Patents & Related Matters. The statement details recommendations to help stimulate innovation through consistent, world-class patents, as well as recommendations to help improve the efficiency of the patenting process. The statement also provides guidance on copyright policy and trade secret policies.

“ACS recognizes the importance of intellectual property in stimulating innovation,” says Kirby Drake, chair of the Committee on Patents & Related Matters. “This policy statement related to patents, trade secrets, and copyrights can have an effect on all ACS members involved in discovery, development, as well as commercialization of technologies.”

PA&PR has also revised five statements that were last reviewed in 2014 to clarify and further emphasize key points, although the specific policy recommendations remain unchanged. The revised statements are Science & Technology in the Budget, Scientific Insight & Integrity, Sustainability of the Chemical Enterprise, U.S. Business Climate, and Visa Restrictions.

The committee renewed without substantial revision the statements titled Encouraging Americans to Support Professional & Educational Activities through Financial Donations, Teaching of Evolution, Importance of Hands-on Laboratory Activities, Retirement Security, and on Scientific Freedom.

ACS members interested in getting involved in the society’s advocacy efforts can join the ACS Legislative Action Network to receive updates about legislation relevant to the chemistry community, join a local section government affairs group, or serve on an ACS committee and help shape policy statements. They can also join Act4Chemistry, ACS’s member advocacy volunteer program, which currently has more than 15,000 members. ACS can also assist its members in contacting their elected officials. Other tools and resources are available at

To help inform and educate members of Congress and their staff, ACS conducts congressional briefings, in which panels of experts from academia, industry, and government highlight policy issues of importance to scientists. ACS also hosts an annual Legislative Summit, where members of the ACS Board of Directors visit policy-makers in Washington, D.C.

The impact of the policy statements can be seen in the outcome of legislation. “We advocated in 2017 for preserving the Chemical Safety Board, which had been recommended for zeroing out in the preliminary administration budget,” Adams says. “The later versions of appropriations from the Senate and House were much more agreeable to us” and did not take away the CSB budget.

The key is to deliver a unified and consistent message to legislators on behalf of the scientific community, Adams says. “It’s important that our members’ voices be heard.”

Current ACS policy statements

Foster innovation through research & technology

Energy: Endorses an energy policy that prioritizes energy efficiency and that includes the full life-cycle costs of energy sources in their market prices, including the impacts on human health and the environment. It also encourages long-term orientation for both funding and incentives.

Intellectual Property: Encourages policies that improve the quality and consistency of granted patents as well as the efficiency of the patent process. Urges policy-makers to support information technology upgrades to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and support sustainable open access initiatives. Promotes consistent application of trade secret protections.

Science & Technology in the Budget: Urges policy-makers to restore investments in federal R&D funding to levels nearer to 1.2% of gross domestic product and recommends strategies to ensure federal dollars dedicated to R&D are used as efficiently as possible.

U.S. Business Climate: Supports a fair and level playing field that enhances competition and stimulates R&D. Supports policies that foster the growth of small R&D businesses and encourage entrepreneurship.

U.S. Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Supports investment in a world-class workforce through education and training, long-term commitments to basic research and technology development, and the development of a sustainable infrastructure for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Strengthen science education & the scientific workforce

Disabilities: Supports ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and encourages international cooperation, sharing of scientific knowledge, and R&D on assistive technologies in carrying out the requirement to implement the means for equal access to medical facilities, education, workplaces, and communication technologies.

Employment Nondiscrimination: Recommends federal legislation to extend employment discrimination protection to include sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity.

Health Care: Supports health care policies that focus on preventive care, availability and affordability of health plans, universal eligibility, portability of health coverage across state lines, and privacy of medical information.

Importance of Hands-on Laboratory Activities: Supports hands-on activities in education and explores the proper role of computer simulations that mimic laboratory procedures as a useful supplement to them but not a substitute for them.

Retirement Security: Urges Congress to reduce the regulatory complexity of 401(k) plans available to small-business owners and promote faster vesting and more portable plans.

Science Education: Supports ensuring that all students understand science in accordance with national standards; modernizing learning environments; strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teacher education programs; and nurturing students of all backgrounds, including from underrepresented groups, in pursuit of studies and careers in STEM.

Teaching of Evolution: Supports teaching of evolution; opposes alternative, nonscientific theories; and urges states and localities to support high-quality science standards and curricula.

Visa Restrictions: Supports visa policies that facilitate scientific education and exchange and welcome foreign scholars, students, scientists, and engineers. Supports timely and reasonable screening processes for visits, greater transparency of the application process, and the issuance and management of visas that are more aligned with the purpose of academic study and scientific exchange.

Advance sustainability & the environment

Chemical Risk Assessment & Regulatory Decision Making: Supports risk assessments that are based on sound science, that are protective of human health and the environment, and that include necessary information from the commercial chemical enterprise while protecting confidential business information.

Climate Change: Reviews the science and recommends action on greenhouse gas reduction and climate change adaptation strategies. Encourages continued funding for research into the effects of climate change while also emphasizing the importance of educating the public on the issue.

Endocrine Disruption: Endorses expanded funding for the development of more effective tools and methods for diagnostic testing and also for green chemistry research into functional alternatives.

Inherently Safer Technologies: Endorses federal support for research and development to expand IST options and usage.

Regulation of Laboratory Waste: Reviews the pitfalls of regulations meant for large-scale chemical manufacturing being applied to laboratories.

The Science & Technology of Hydraulic Fracturing: Recommends conducting research on fracking and its impacts from a life-cycle perspective, its uses compared with replacement resources, methane emissions at fracking sites, causes and extent of groundwater contamination, less hazardous fracking fluids, and characterization of and methods for treating and disposing of liquid returns from fracking.

Sustainability of the Chemical Enterprise: Defines the concept of sustainability in the context of the chemical enterprise. Supports government incentives for sustainable technologies.

Water Treatment & Conservation: Supports U.S. government action that develops water-use guidelines and initiatives; encourages advancements in water reduction, treatment, and reuse technologies; protects groundwater resources; and prevents discharge of toxic substances into ground and surface waters.

Promote science in the public policy arena

Encouraging Americans to Support Professional & Educational Activities through Financial Donations: Supports tax deductions for charitable contributions and permanent extension of the Individual Retirement Account charitable rollover provisions.

Ensuring Access to High-Quality Science: Supports using sustainable publishing models that provide universal access to scientific research. Supports the 10 principles outlined in the Brussels Declaration on STM (scientific, technical, and medical) Publishing, as set forth by the International Association of STM Publishers.

Forensic Science: Calls for scientific rigor, high-quality education, and standards in forensic science and for its integration with the broader scientific community. Backs evaluation and improvement of forensic analytical methods.

Peer Review—Ensuring High-Quality Science: Urges support for scientific peer review processes that evaluate grant applications on the basis of both intellectual merit and broader impacts and that are periodically evaluated for process effectiveness and efficiency and for reviewer freedom from interference in scientific merit assessments.

Safety in the Chemistry Enterprise: Supports the use of risk-based criteria in creating safety regulations and policies, and continued funding of research to inform policy-makers and stakeholders in the creation of those regulations and policies. Also supports government implementation of regulatory policies that foster innovation within a safer chemical environment.

Scientific Freedom: Advocates freedom of scientific exchange and stronger scientific collaboration to benefit humankind.

Scientific Insight & Integrity: Supports the use of insightful, comprehensive, scientific, and engineering input to the development and evaluation of policy options. Encourages scientific integrity policies that help the federal government obtain and integrate scientific assessments into policy development and implementation.


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