Table of Contents

The Intellectual Property Debate

The Intellectual Property Debate

Perspectives from Law, Economics and Political Economy

New Horizons in Intellectual Property series

Edited by Meir Perez Pugatch

Intellectual property (IP) has become one of the most influential and controversial issues in today’s knowledge-based society. This challenging book exposes the reader to key issues at the heart of the public debate now taking place in the field of IP. It considers IP at the macro level where it affects many issues. These include: international trade policy, ownership of breakthrough technologies, foreign direct investment, innovation climates, public–private partnerships, competition rules and public health where it is strongly embedded in contemporary business decision making.

Chapter 11: Patenting Genes

Trevor Cook

Subjects: economics and finance, cultural economics, intellectual property, law - academic, intellectual property law


Trevor Cook INTRODUCTION Genes, and the proteins for which they code, have much in common. They are both types of chemical, and they are both found in the body, and yet they elicit very different attitudes when it comes to their patenting. Although it is through proteins by which the body operates, it has been genes, and not proteins, which have caused the greatest controversy in the patent world. Yet genes by themselves do little, their importance lying in the fact that they are stretches of DNA that contain the code which specifies the sequence of amino acids making up each of the tens of thousands of different proteins, and which do the work by which the body functions. Why then should genes have apparently caused so many problems for the patent community? Moreover why should the issue be of such current interest, when there have for many years been patents with claims to gene sequences, some of which indeed are so old that they have now expired?1 This chapter explores these issues from the perspectives of European and United States patent laws.2 Genes and proteins are both products of nature, and, having exemplified some of the patent claims found in so-called ‘gene patents’, this chapter continues with a discussion of the issues raised by seeking to patent them as products of nature, and how the European and United States patent systems, in broadly similar ways, address these. It then discusses some of the di...

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