Does Switzerland have its Bayh-Dole Act? The answer is “yes, but.” Indeed, due to the decentralized Swiss political and legal system, more than one Act governs technology transfer in Switzerland. Higher education institutions consist of:
Two federal institutes of technology (namely ETH Zurich and EPFL, Lausanne), governed by federal legislation;
Ten cantonal universities, mainly governed by cantonal legislation;
Seven universities of applied science, mainly governed by cantonal legislation.
Technology transfer was not addressed per se until 1991, although federal and cantonal law did contain provisions about ownership of inventions made by civil servants (ownership being allocated to the federal or cantonal state). The application of this legislation in the higher education institutions was not straightforward mainly because of the many different possible employment status of their staff, whereby it was generally very difficult to know which categories of university staff were subject to such provisions. Typically, it was not clear whether inventions generated by professors belonged to themselves or to the institution hiring them; without talking about the other aspects of technology transfer like patenting and licensing, which were not addressed at all.