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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.



Evaluating California’s Stem Cell Experimentby David E. JensenSacramento BeeNovember 15th, 2014CIRM expects to be taking part in 10 early-stage clinical trials this year; however, no California-financed cures or therapies have reached the clinic and none are likely to do so for years.
Patently Absurd? Or Absurdly Patentable?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 12th, 2014The US Supreme Court might agree to rule on the validity of stem-cell patents, and the Canadian courts are being asked to invalidate a patent on disease-linked genes.
U.S. Gene Patents: Patient Care Stymied in Canada, Hospital ClaimsCBC News [Canada]November 3rd, 2014An Ottawa hospital is challenging the legality of gene patents that hamper the ability of doctors to freely screen for potentially deadly genetic diseases without fear of being sued for patent violations.
Open Letter to UK Parliament: Avoid Historic Mistake on Rushing Human Genetic Modificationby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogNovember 2nd, 2014There are too many unanswered questions and risks that remain to allow it to proceed at this time. In fact, moving forward with it would most likely be a tragic mistake for the UK.
Is Freezing Your Eggs Dangerous? A Primerby Josephine Johnston and Miriam ZollNew RepublicNovember 1st, 2014This eagerness to push forward with non-medically necessary egg freezing services raises an important question: How safe and effective does a technology like this need to be before it is sold to young, fertile women?
Reality Check for Google’s Nanoparticle Health Testsby Kevin Bullis MIT Technology ReviewOctober 31st, 2014Google will face big challenges developing a nanotechnology-based test for cancer and other diseases.
Can Scientists Patent Life? The Question Returns to the Supreme Courtby Michael HiltzikLos Angeles TimesOctober 31st, 2014The thorny and unresolved question of whether life itself can be patented may come again before the U.S. Supreme Court, if it accepts a motion filed by Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog.
Africa: Synthetic Biology - Artificial Life Threatens Nature and Societyby Glenn AshtonAllAfricaOctober 30th, 2014Biologists continue to push the boundaries of their ability to alter life on earth in novel and unpredictable ways. The latest version is known as synthetic biology, or "synbio."
Cloning Whistleblower: Little Changed in S. Koreaby Youkyung LeeAssociated PressOctober 24th, 2014The whistle-blower who exposed breakthrough cloning research as a devastating fake says South Korea is still dominated by the values that allowed science fraudster Hwang Woo-suk to become an almost untouchable national hero.
Regulate Synthetic Biology Now: 194 CountriesSynBioWatchOctober 17th, 2014In a unanimous decision of 194 countries, the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity formally urged nation states to regulate synthetic biology.
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