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Export Controls Overview

Export control laws are designed to meet international treaty obligations, protect national security interests, promote foreign policy and protect the country’s economic viability. More specifically, export control laws regulate the export or re-export of products, software, services and technologies, including those with dual use applications (primarily commercial in nature but may have military or proliferation applications), and define what a university can export, where it can export, who can receive it and how it can be used.

Additionally, U.S. export controls regulate the release or transfer of technology or technical data to foreign nationals in the U.S. This type of transfer, referred to as a deemed export, is deemed to be an export to the individual’s home country, even though the release occurs entirely within the United States. Under the deemed export rule, the term release is broadly defined and can occur through:

  • Visual inspection (including via computer networks)
  • Discussion or conversation
  • The application outside the U.S. of personal knowledge
  • Technical experience acquired in the United States

In some cases, a U.S. government export license is required prior to an export or release of technology or technical data to a foreign national. The license requirement is dependent on two factors (1) the nature of technology that will be exported or released, and (2) destination or home country.

U.S. export control requirements are complex, especially in a university setting. For example, universities may work with a wide range of technologies in various sponsored and non-sponsored (i.e., unfunded) research projects. Though universities may be able to use certain exclusions or exceptions from U.S. export control requirements (e.g., Fundamental Research or Publicly Available/Public Domain), the use of such exclusions may be unavailable where the activity or project is subject to publication or other restrictions.

Further, enforcement of U.S. export control regulations continues in both industry and university settings. Penalties included fines of over $1,000,000 (for each violation), and 20 years imprisonment in the most egregious cases.