Back in April the University of Massachusetts at Lowell (the “University”) agreed to pay to the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) a suspended penalty of $100,000 in connection with its unlicensed export of an atmospheric sensing device, antennae and cables valued at slightly more than $200,000 to Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (“SUPARCO”). The fine will be waived if the university does not commit any more export violations during a probationary period of two years.

The items at issue were all classified as EAR99. The violation occurred because SUPARCO is on BIS’s Entity List. The licensing policy for SUPARCO has a presumption of approval for EAR99 items, so had the university applied for a license for these exports, it almost certainly would have been granted.

The atmospheric sensing device is likely the basis for this research paper titled “Study of maximum electron density NmF2 at Karachi and Islamabad during solar minimum (1996) and solar maximum (2000) and its comparison with IRI” and co-authored by employees of SUPARCO and a professor at the University. This paper raises an interesting deemed export issue since transfer of technology, even EAR99 technology, would be a violation of the EAR unless the transferred technology was “publicly available” or if it qualifies as “fundamental research.” It is not always easy to determine whether discussions with foreign persons on the Entity List fall within these exceptions, so cooperative projects with such persons by a university will always entail more than a modicum of risk.