In a little-noticed proposal issued at the close of the Clinton administration, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recommended that biotechnology patent holders consider forming "patent pools," or bundles of related innovations, to enable one-stop access to multiple inventions.

The proposal is outlined in a PTO white paper titled "Patent Pools: A Solution to the Problem of Access in Biotechnology Patents?" The paper was commissioned by then-PTO Director Q. Todd Dickinson in response to complaints from NIH, academic researchers and members of Congress that patent policies were blocking access to basic research tools.