Last April, we wrote about proposed changes to Department of Defense ("DoD") reporting requirements for independent research and development ("IR&D"), raising concerns about how the proposed change would tie recoverability of IR&D costs to new reporting and disclosure requirements. Recently, Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement ("DFARS") 231.205-18(c) was finalized, with changes. See 77 Fed. Reg. 4632 (Jan. 30, 2012). This final rule is a mixed bag that got some things right, but also leaves some of the most serious issues unresolved.
Those familiar with Government contracting know at least a little bit about the elusive and fickle regulatory requirements for Independent Research and Development (“IR&D” or “IRAD”) costs. IR&D is a means by which the U.S. Government supports a Contractor’s independent R&D efforts. By reimbursing a Contractor’s independent R&D costs, the Government long has hoped to advance the state of the art without stifling a contractor’s innovation under the weight of a federal bureaucracy, while simultaneously banking on the fact that the U.S. Government also will benefit from the technology advancements. But two recent developments may change the essential nature of IR&D, making it less “independent” and more “dependent” on Government rights and oversight. To quote Bob Dylan – “the times they are a changin’.”
A great deal of discussion has transpired regarding recent legislation that reportedly could alter significantly the established “follow-the-funds” test used for the allocation of intellectual property rights in data developed under a government contract. The legislation involved is a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (the “Act”), signed into law on January 7, 2011. In particular, Section 824 of the Act provides “Guidance Relating to Rights in Technical Data” and, more importantly, amends Section 2320(a) of Title 10 of the United States Code, the provision that defines the allocation of rights in intellectual property under Government contracts.
In Teknowledge Corp. v. U.S., Fed. Cir., No. 2009-5053, 11/03/09, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a decision by the Court of Federal Claims (COFC) that software development costs were not allocable to the Government because the Government did not receive a benefit from the costs. Earlier this year we wrote about the potential implications of the COFC’s decision.
With the elimination of the IR&D and B&P ceiling a decade or so ago and the recognition of “dual use” technologies as appropriate subjects of IR&D, contractors have tended to place questions relating to the allocability of IR&D on the back burner. True, the old concurrency issue remained, but allocability seemed to be relatively non-controversial. Based upon a COFC decision issued earlier this year — and to quote Bob Dylan — “The times they are a changin.’”
The United States has long been the world’s principal purchaser of (a) research and development services, (b) the products generated by the R&D, and (c) the intellectual property relating to that R&D. Historically, Government-funded R&D has evoked images of an omnipresent, overly intrusive, audit-fixated purchaser bent on levying a host of required terms and conditions on the seller, many of which are wholly unrelated to the underlying R&D and are designed solely to advance socio-economic policies and preferences. For these (and other) reasons, companies, particularly new and emerging companies, are often reluctant to accept federal funding to advance their privately conceived and privately developed ideas.