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The Role of Intellectual Property Rights in Biotechnology Innovation

Edited by David Castle

Intellectual property rights (IPRs), particularly patents, occupy a prominent position in innovation systems, but to what extent they support or hinder innovation is widely disputed. Through the lens of biotechnology, this book delves deeply into the main issues at the crossroads of innovation and IPRs to evaluate claims of the positive and negative impacts of IPRs on innovation.
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Chapter 10: Open Development: Is the ‘Open Source’ Analogy Relevant to Biotechnology?

Alan G. Isaac and Walter G. Park


Alan G. Isaac and Walter G. Park INTRODUCTION During the past quarter century, innovation and growth have characterized the biotechnology industries. At the same time, multinational agreements have strengthened and harmonized global intellectual property standards. The link between these two developments is the subject of much controversy. Did economic growth occur because of the growth of IPRs? Did economic growth occur despite the growth of IPRs? Or was the growth of IPRs an institutional manifestation of the economic interests concomitant to economic growth? Academic research and public policy discussions during the 1990s explored many concerns about the increased scope and global reach of IPRs, including IPRs in biotechnology. A spectre of IPRs is haunting the biotech industry, the critics say. Despite the rapid growth of the biotechnology industries, one common concern is that the proliferation of IPRs may raise the costs of innovation and thereby slow technological progress. A second concern is distributional: the increasing global scope of IPRs appears to disadvantage developing countries, which accede to a regime of global IPR harmonization without possessing the IPR riches of the developed countries. A related concern is that the assertion of IPRs over the genetic resources of developing countries may constitute a kind of ‘biopiracy’ by developed countries. Such concerns are entangled with a concern that proprietary rights (such as patents) may be inappropriate in the field of biotechnology, where innovations may be mere discoveries and where substantial public-sector research funding can make it difficult to determine the substantial contributions of...

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