Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Biotechnology and the future of the Patent System [International]

Biotechnology discoveries -- like the method for creating synthetic life forms -- are at risk of being unduly hindered or taken hostage by private corporations unless patent systems are brought into the 21st century

Patent systems around the world were developed during the industrial revolution, which means they're ill equipped to deal with more complex range of inventions arising out of life sciences -- things like man-made micro-organisms, GM plants, the human genome and stem cells.

Patent systems provide protections around inventions provided they satisfy criteria to do with novelty, an inventive step and utility. But he argues that such legal tools are not nuanced enough for biotechnical innovation, where inventions can be at once more intellectually subtle and morally ambiguous. When it comes to biotechnology, our antiquated patent systems can have detrimental consequences -- either hampering the freedom of researchers to take full advantage of experimental use and the possibilities for innovation, or giving a lot of control over living things to a very small group of people.

In order to provide more incentives and protections for scientific innovation, there needs to be greater scope for challenges to patent applications. There is a need for a broader legal defence of experimentation. Thresholds need to be raised to make it harder to get a patent, which would be a blow to 'patent trolls'.

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