NASA Offers Free Patent Licenses

No up-front cost for licensing aims to encourage technology and innovation.

Have you always wanted to play in NASA’s sandbox?

Thanks to the new Startup NASA initiative, you may have your chance.

Aimed at encouraging the growth of high-tech businesses and advancing American innovation, NASA’s Technology Transfer Program designed this initiative to allow start-up companies to choose from and acquire licenses for a diverse portfolio of more than 1,200 patented NASA technologies that range from materials and coatings to sensors, aeronautics technologies, instrumentation and more.

By allowing engineers and innovators to license patented NASA technology directly, with no initial up-front payments, the initiative addresses two of the common obstacles that tech start-ups face: raising capital, and securing intellectual property rights.

Interested parties can browse through the online patent portfolio covering 15 categories of patents currently protected by the U.S. government. Both NASA and external sources have vetted all these technologies for technical and commercial viability. 

Once you identify a desired technology you want to work with, there is an online application to submit through the site.

Although the license itself is free, there are some restrictions. The start-up companies must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • This offer is open only to companies formed with the express intent of commercializing the licensed NASA technology.
  • “No up-front payment” means NASA waives the initial licensing fees, and there are no minimum fees for the first three years.
  • Once the company starts selling a product, NASA will collect a standard net royalty fee. This money goes first to the inventor and then to maintaining the agency’s technology transfer activities and technology advancement.
  • This announcement applies only to non-exclusive licenses, which means other companies may apply for similar rights to use the technology for commercial purposes. However, NASA states they will consider further exclusivity if the start-up wishes to negotiate.
  • Companies entering into these licenses are bound by all requirements in federal licensing statutes and NASA policies, including development of a commercialization plan and reporting on efforts to achieve practical application.

On the website, NASA also notes that their technical personnel and facilities may even be available to lend support to licensee start-ups.

Interested in innovating with some NASA technology? Check out Startup NASA.