LIFT Associates - SBIR Proposal Consultant
. . . specializing in SBIR proposal development

Cool Fractal

Welcome to the FAQ's Page of LIFT Associates

Providing SBIR Proposal Development Services Since 1992

The SBIR Program was created by Congress in 1982 to help small businesses more actively participate in Federal research and development (R&D). All Federal agencies with an annual extramural R&D budget exceeding $100M are required to participate in the SBIR Program. The program is funded by a fixed set-aside equal to 2.5% of the agency's annual extramural contract research dollars. The total dollar figure for the SBIR program is now well in excess of $1 billion annually. Each of the agencies manages its own SBIR program, while the Small Business Administration (SBA) plays a central administrative role. Some of the more frequently asked questions (FAQs) that we get are answered below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Definition of a Small Business

A "small business" is defined as any concern that at the time of award of a Phase I or Phase II project:

  • Is organized for profit, independently owned and operated, not dominant in the field of operation in which it is proposing, and has its principal place of business located in the United States;
  • Is at least 51 percent owned by, or in the case of a publicly owned business, at least 51 percent of its voting stock is owned by, United States citizens or lawfully admitted permanent resident aliens; and
  • Has, including its affiliates, a number of employees not exceeding 500.

Business concerns include, but are not limited to, any individual, partnership, corporation, joint venture, association, or cooperative. Business concerns are affiliates of one another when either one directly or indirectly controls or has the power to control the other; or a third party or parties controls or has the power to control both. Control can be exercised through common ownership, common management, and/or contractual relationship. For further information, including a definition of "number of employees," consult Title 13 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 121.


Patent Rights

Small business firms may normally retain the principal worldwide patent rights to any invention developed with Government support. Under existing regulations, the Government receives a royalty-free license for general Government use, reserves the right to require the patent holder to license others in certain circumstances, and requires that anyone exclusively licensed to sell the invention in the United States must normally manufacture it substantially in the U.S. To the extent authorized by law, the Government will not make public any information disclosing a Government-supported invention to allow the awardee reasonable time to file a patent application, nor will the Government release any information that is part of that application.

In plain English, you own the patent rights, with three reasonable caveats. The "royalty-free" part means that if someone licenses your patent, they cannot pass on any royalty fees owed to you back to the Government. Of course, they can pass these fees along to other customers. The "license to others" part means that the Government retains march-in rights if you fail to adequately develop technology deemed to be in the security interest of the Nation. This stipulation is legally required under the law but of little practical consequence to most proposers. The "substantially in the US" part goes to the heart of the intent behind the SBIR legislation. The aim is to promote US economic development, not subsidize foreign competition.



Contractors will be permitted (consistent with appropriate national security considerations, if any) to assert or establish claim to copyright data first produced under an SBIR contract, subject to a paid-up, no-exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license for Governmental purposes. The contractor is required to include an appropriate credit line acknowledging Government support for any works published under copyrights.

In plain English, this means if you wrote it, you can copyright it. However, you have a responsibility to acknowledge the Government when you publish.


Data Rights

Generally speaking, rights to data, including software, developed under the terms of any SBIR program remain with the small business, except that the Government shall have the limited right to use such data for internal purposes and shall not release such data outside the Government without permission for a period of fours years from the date of completion of the project which generated the data. At the conclusion of the four-year period, the Government retains a royalty-free license for Government use of any technical data delivered under the contract, whether patented or not; is relieved of all disclosure prohibitions; and assumes no liability for unauthorized use of the data by third parties. Some data of a general nature, such as the project summary on the proposal cover sheet, must be furnished without restriction (i.e., with unlimited rights) and may be used by the Government for any purpose. However, specific data to be acquired with unlimited rights will be identified in any draft contract and is negotiable at the time of award. Trade secrets and other commercial and/or financial information that is considered confidential and/or privileged and was first develop at private expense will not normally be acquired. If such data must be acquired, it will be with "limited rights" or "restricted rights." Such rights do not include the right to use the data for manufacturing or re-procurement purposes.

In plain English, this means that any software, trade secrets, and other technical know-how developed under that project will be protected from parties outside the Government for a period of four years dating from the end of the contract. This is to allow the small businesses a reasonable amount of time to commercialize the technology and/or seek patent protection. The Government is on your side here; remember, it has a vested interest in seeing technology it funded successfully commercialized. However, the Government is not infinitely patient; the clock is running. After four years, the Government is absolved of responsibility to protect the data but retains a royalty- free license to it nonetheless.

On the other hand, you are entitled to retain full ownership any software, trade secrets, and other technical know- how originally developed prior to the project and without Government support (i.e., at private expense). However, it is your responsibility to identify at the time of proposal any data that will be used in the performance of the contract for which you claim ownership. Bear in mind, though; the Government is fairly generous in the technical data rights granted to small businesses. The main thing is to ask questions and think ahead. For definitive guidance on a specific issue, consult your intellectual property lawyer, as well as the funding agency.


Our Logo

LIFT Associates wanted a logo that in some way reflected the process of innovation. The Mandelbrot set seemed the perfect metaphor for this. The solid region in the center is one of stability. The surrounding region is one of instability. The boundary between the two regions is fractal in nature; i.e., it is a zone of infinite complexity where order and chaos are exquisitely intertwined. The degree of instability is frequently color-coded to help reveal the amazing complexity of this region. The result is often one of stunning beauty. An esthetic rendering adorns the title of each page on this web site. (We invite you to click on any of the thumbnail images to see the underlying image in its full glory.) Natural systems operating in and around such boundary regions can rapidly "test-drive " uncountably large numbers of different physical states. In this way, the viable are efficiently winnowed from the unviable. The existence of this process of natural innovation helps explain how Nature has been able to evolve such complex forms (living and otherwise) in the comparatively short time since the Earth was formed. Besides being a wonderful symbol for the process of innovation, the Mandelbrot set is an ideal 21st-century metaphor, having been discovered and popularized only in the last 25 years.


LIFT Associates

Launching Innovative Future Technologies

Site Map  Contact Us  About  FAQs  Resources  Home

Copyright ©2002 LIFT Associates. All rights reserved.
Please direct feedback regarding this web site to: