Gene Cartels
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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.
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Chapter 1: The Early History of Anglo-American Patent Systems

Luigi Palombi


5 Embroiled in the Puritan cause, Coke played a significant role in the drafting of the ‘Great Protestation’, a document which was used to challenge openly the King’s independence of Parliament by proclaiming: ‘the liberties, franchises, privileges and jurisdictions of Parliament are the ancient and undoubted birthright and inheritance of the subjects of England’. This was too much for James I, who reacted by tearing the page recording it from the Journal of the Commons, dissolving Parliament and having Coke imprisoned in the Tower of London. Fortunately for Coke, his nine-month taste of the King’s displeasure was an experience that he survived, and its effects were mitigated by Parliament’s impeachment of Sir Francis Bacon (his nemesis, who had been appointed over him in 1618 as Lord Chancellor) on charges of corruption.16 By the time Coke’s ‘Bill for Free Trade’ was law it had become the Statute of Monopolies and, although the term ‘free trade’ suggests a liberal trading policy, in truth Coke was a protectionist. In fact Coke had argued in Parliament against the export of wool and the import of Spanish tobacco. At the time there were many English trading companies, such as the East India Company (which was licensed to transport bullion) and the Virginia Company (which was licensed to produce tobacco in North America), whose charters provided them with specifically assigned and exclusive territories and permitted them to control the trade in many types of goods; indeed it was unlawful for anyone to interfere...

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