Intellectual Property and Biotechnology

Intellectual Property and Biotechnology

Biological Inventions

Matthew Rimmer

This book documents and evaluates the dramatic expansion of intellectual property law to accommodate various forms of biotechnology from micro-organisms, plants, and animals to human genes and stem cells. It makes a unique theoretical contribution to the controversial public debate over the commercialization of biological inventions.

Chapter 3: The Human Chimera Patent Initiative: Patent Law and Animals

Matthew Rimmer

Subjects: environment, biotechnology, law - academic, biotechnology and pharmaceutical law, intellectual property law


There is much reliance upon animal models, including drosophila, mice, zebra fish, as well as pigs, chimpanzees and monkeys, in both genetics and stem cell research.1 There has been much legal, ethical and commercial debate over the patenting of animals, in relation to polyploid oysters, transgenic animals such as the Harvard oncomouse, animal models, cloned animals and human–animal chimera. In the past decade, biotechnology developers, public research institutions and industry groups have strongly supported the extension of patent law to include animals. Canadian researchers, Vincent Amanor-Boadu, Morris Freeman and Larry Martin, sum up the positive arguments advanced for broadening intellectual property protection to include the animal kingdom: The increased investment in animal biotechnology research and development implies an increased likelihood of finding solutions to some of the human and animal diseases that currently defy treatments. In this way, consumers may benefit from improved food and health care products coming from farm animals.2 The commentators conclude: ‘Under a stronger IP system, processors and retailers would benefit from innovation leading to cheaper and/or more improved food products and/or new products such as pharmaceutical products and chemicals from animals.’3 Some policy makers have been willing to adapt the patent system so that it can better accommodate animals into its framework, so as to better balance the interests of technology developers against those of agricultural producers. United States House of Representatives member, Robert Kastenmeier, introduced the Transgenic Animal Patent Reform Act 1989 (US) into the United States Congress. The legislation provided...

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