Some NASA patents make reference to Public Law 96-517, using wording like this:
The invention described herein was made in the performance of work under a NASA contract, and is subject to the provisions of Public Law 96-517 (35 USC 202) under which the inventors were granted a request to retain title.
What does this mean in practical terms? Law 96-517 appears to be part of something coloquially called the "Bayh-Dole Act", the contents of which seems to refer to being made in the spirit of fostering free enterprise:
It is the policy and objective of the Congress to use the patent system to promote the utilization of inventions arising from federally supported research or development; to encourage maximum participation of small business firms in federally supported research and development efforts; to promote collaboration between commercial concerns and nonprofit organizations, including universities; to ensure that inventions made by nonprofit organizations and small business firms are used in a manner to promote free competition and enterprise without unduly encumbering future research and discovery; to promote the commercialization and public availability of inventions made in the United States by United States industry and labor; to ensure that the Government obtains sufficient rights in federally supported inventions to meet the needs of the Government and protect the public against nonuse or unreasonable use of inventions; and to minimize the costs of administering policies in this area.
This very long sentence seems to loosely imply that small business, not-for-profits and educational institutions will be able to utilise the inventions described in these patents, but I'm only guessing. I'm also interested in what this means for residents, businesses and institutions operating outside of the United States.