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About Patents, Other Intellectual Property & Human Biotechnology


Human biotechnology is both constrained and catalyzed by intellectual property law, which regulates who can use certain information, ideas, and processes. Patents—one form of intellectual property—give the holder an exclusive right to produce and sell an invention.

While patents provide an incentive to inventors, they can also inhibit information flow. Their management has a tremendous impact on how biotechnologies are developed, and who benefits from them.

In the United States, the development of biotechnology has been dramatically influenced by two developments in 1980 that greatly increased the incentives for the commercialization of the life sciences. Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, which reformed how inventions from federally-funded research are managed. The same year, the Supreme Court ruled in Diamond v. Chakrabarty that living things, including genes, could be patented.



Biotech Reels Over Patent Rulingby Erika Check-HaydenNature NewsJuly 8th, 2014Firms fight for the right to patent natural products and processes.
Isolated Nucleic Acids are Patent Eligible in Australiaby Shelley RowlandLexologyJune 25th, 2014Applicants opposed to the patenting of human genetic material have lodged an appeal against Australia's Full Federal Court.
Stem Cells: Taking a Stand Against Pseudoscienceby Elena Cattaneo & Gilberto CorbelliniNatureJune 16th, 2014A pharmacologist and a bioethicist working to protect patients from questionable stem-cell therapies share their experiences in the fight against predatory pseudoscience.
Who Owns Your Genetic Data? Hint: It's Probably Not Youby Meredith SalisburyThe Huffington PostJune 12th, 2014It seems intuitive to many of us that each person owns his or her genetic data and therefore should control access. But the reality is more complex.
Property Rights and the Human Bodyby Jennifer K. WagnerGenomics Law ReportJune 11th, 2014A Canadian court decided that human tissue removed from the body for diagnostic medical tests is “personal property” that belongs to the hospital.
"This is Mine!": Property and Ethical Rights of Your Body by Yourself and Othersby Maurice BernsteinBioethics DiscussionJune 8th, 2014Through the rambling pathways of property and intellectual property law, we are fast approaching the point at which just about anyone can have property rights in your cells, except you.
Free Dolly!by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesMay 15th, 2014The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has ruled that cloned animals cannot be patented.
Dolly the Sheep’s Clones Deemed Unpatentable by U.S. Courtby Susan DeckerBloombergMay 8th, 2014The Scottish scientists famous for concocting Dolly the sheep lost a bid to get U.S. patent protection for the cloned animal. A court said their creations are just genetic copies of naturally occurring beings.
Beyond-DNA Dayby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesApril 25th, 2014With a patent now issued for CRISPR genome-editing technology, and the first gene therapy approved by the FDA, this DNA Day will be remembered not for increased understanding of the human genome, but for increased attempts to change it.
Broad Institute Gets Patent on Revolutionary Gene-Editing Method by Susan Young RojahnMIT Technology ReviewApril 16th, 2014The Harvard-MIT genomic science institute stays mute on how it will assert control over the tools expected to speed cures and change gene therapy.
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