Chapter 9: Inventors' claims to life: intellectual property rights and biotechnological inventions
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Patents on biotechnological inventions provide essential economic incentives to biotechnological research. In WTO law, the TRIPS Agreement governs patentability and compulsory licencing, a mechanism aimed at balancing the economic interests of patent holders with the need to grant broad access to particular kinds of patented products (e.g. pharmaceuticals). In the EU, Directive 98/44/EC establishes rules which specifically deal with biotechnological inventions. A particularly contentious issue are patents on living organisms, especially higher forms of animal life. Other controversies relate to patents on naturally occurring DNA sequences, and the patentability of techniques based on indigenous knowledge. Applicable regulations generally recognize public policy or morality as reasons to deny a patent. Some famous disputes, such as the case Brüstle v Greenpeace before the ECJ, turn on the interpretation of these exceptions. In context of the non-patentability of products flowing from essentially biological processes under the European Patent Convention, the European Patent Office finally adopted the EU approach.

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