The International Law of Biotechnology
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The International Law of Biotechnology

Human Rights, Trade, Patents, Health and the Environment

Matthias Herdegen

Biotechnology is a field that inspires complex legal and ethical debates on an international scale. Taking a fresh approach to the subject, Matthias Herdegen provides a comprehensive assessment of the regulation of biotechnology processes and products from an international and comparative perspective.
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Chapter 9: Inventors’ claims to life: intellectual property rights and biotechnological inventions

Matthias Herdegen


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. Other controversies relate to patents on 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.

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