Perspectives from Law, Economics and Political Economy
New Horizons in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Meir Perez Pugatch
Chapter 11: Patenting Genes
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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