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.

Chapter 3: Patent Monopolies versus Free Trade

Luigi Palombi

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


Even . . . Cordell Hull, great exponent of Good Neighbour policy and collaboration, is at pains to remind the American electorate that ‘The foreign policy of every country must be expressive of that country’s fundamental national interests’. RJF Boyer, December 1944 At the Monetary and Financial Conference held at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in July 1944 the draft articles of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now known as the World Bank) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were completed. Absent from consideration however was the role that the confiscation and use of enemy patents, trade marks and copyrights had played in the reconstruction or reshaping of the UK and US economies during, and between, both world wars. At Bretton Woods free trade and multilateralism did not extend to intellectual property. It was not until 1 January 1995 when the World Trade Organization (WTO) was established and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) became operational that intellectual property came together with the trade and tariff negotiations which had, until then, taken place under the terms of a provisional agreement, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the GATT). That it took nearly 50 years to achieve this fusion is no accident. Protectionism at the time of Bretton Woods was a controversial issue, particularly after the British Empire’s Imperial Preference system was agreed upon at Ottawa in August 1932 – a system which, by the outbreak of World War II, accounted for 40 per cent of all...

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