Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The technology transfer or licensing process is a discipline which, if properly appreciated, can be utilized in a wide variety of circumstances. There is a strong parallel with another discipline, music--more particularly, with the playing of a large and complicated church organ.

A man named Johann Sebastian Bach could sit in a drafty church in Leipzig over 200 years ago and create a phenomenon that had an original, and to the ears of most listeners, very wonderful sound. By utilizing the universally recognized notations of music, the staff, clefs, notes of varying duration, sharps, flats, keys, and indications of loudness and spirit, Bach's creation could be captured so as to be recreated. An organist tomorrow, assuming he or she is skilled in the art, can produce anywhere in the world, with a satisfying degree of faithfulness, the composition originally invented by the composer.

The same may be said with regard to a technical invention. In order to be valid scientifically, it too must be reproducible. Certain novel aspects of the invention can be described with exactitude so as to be understood by someone skilled in the art. Assuming there is true novelty and a sufficiently lucid description, the invention can be awarded a limited monopoly--in the form of a patent. Other aspects of the achievement can be retained as trade secrets or reduced to formuli, blueprints, operations and training manuals, technical specifications, plant schematics, and the many other recognized forms of notation for technology that have become widely accepted as falling within the broad definition of know-how. If, in the marketing of the product or process resulting from the technology in question, it becomes identified with some distinctive word, symbol, or combination thereof, the law of trademarks becomes relevant. Although a relatively recent phenomenon, the right to use such trademarks may now also be transferred. With regard to some artistic or literary aspects of the creation, the system of copyrights becomes relevant. Here the parallel with music is congruent in fact as well as in theory.