Gene Cartels

Gene Cartels

Biotech Patents in the Age of Free Trade

Luigi Palombi

Starting with the 13th century, this book explores how patents have been used as an economic protectionist tool, developing and evolving to the point where thousands of patents have been ultimately granted not over inventions, but over isolated or purified biological materials. DNA, invented by no man and once thought to be ‘free to all men and reserved exclusively to none’, has become cartelised in the hands of multinational corporations. The author questions whether the continuing grant of patents can be justified when they are now used to suppress, rather than promote, research and development in the life sciences.

Preface

Luigi Palombi

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

Extract

The word ‘patent’ does not appear in its title yet the Statute of Monopolies, passed by the English Parliament in 1623, is the mother of modern patent law in all common law countries. It became law in 1624 near the end of the reign of James I,1 at a time when Parliament was asserting its political independence of the King and dealt with one of a number of issues that contributed to the growing tension between them and, ultimately, the King’s heir, Charles I.2 When James I inherited the throne of England and Ireland in 1603 on the death of Elizabeth I,3 he also inherited her dislike of Parliamentary interference. He considered himself divinely appointed and resented Parliament’s claim that he was subject to its law; he dissolved it eight years later in 1611. Unfortunately for him, since Edward III had been forced to concede the royal prerogative power of taxation to Parliament in April 1341, his ability to replenish his treasury was restricted and so he, like his predecessor, sold monopolies, titles and other offices (including judicial offices) as a means of overcoming the fiscal consequences that came with this political independence. In time his excessive spending and the economic impact of the abusive monopolies, which his exercise of crown privileges created, led to his growing unpopularity, and with England in recession he begrudgingly recalled Parliament in 1621. This time however the parliamentarians were not in a forgiving mood; they realized that as long as...