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Patent PoliticsLife Forms, Markets, and the Public Interest in the United States and Europe$
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Shobita Parthasarathy

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226437859

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226437996.001.0001

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Human Genes, Plants, and the Distributive Implications of Patents

Human Genes, Plants, and the Distributive Implications of Patents

Chapter:
(p.155) 5 Human Genes, Plants, and the Distributive Implications of Patents
Source:
Patent Politics
Author(s):

Shobita Parthasarathy

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226437996.003.0006

This chapter focuses on recent US and European conflicts over patents on human genes and plants. Both raise distributive concerns about the socioeconomic implications of patents and how patents may constrain access to technology and change scientific, medical, food, and farming culture. The United States and Europe have approached these questions quite differently, and in doing so have carved out very different ideas of the role of the patent system, its institutions, and its relationship to science and technology policy. After a lengthy court battle, the United States prohibited patents on human genes. While the court case originated in worries about access for researchers and patients, the Supreme Court decision maintained the US patent system’s focus on a narrow question: whether human genes are products of nature. The US courts’ response to concerns over plant patents reinforced this narrow approach. While the European Patent Office declined to prohibit human gene patents, it, and other European institutions, have repeatedly recognized a link between patents and the implications of patent-based monopolies. European governments have even passed compulsory licensing laws to address these concerns. Overall, the European patent system understands itself as one of many regulatory domains for science and technology.

Keywords:   human gene, plant, distributive concerns, socioeconomic implications, access to technology, products of nature, patent-based monopoly, compulsory licensing, food, regulation

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