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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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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 04 July 2022

Confronting the Questions of Life-Form Patentability

Confronting the Questions of Life-Form Patentability

(p.51) 2 Confronting the Questions of Life-Form Patentability
Patent Politics

Shobita Parthasarathy

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 2 examines the beginning of the US and European life form patent controversies. It argues that almost from the outset, the two places approached the questions at stake, and how these questions should be answered, completely differently. In the United States, life form patentability was treated as a normal legal question about the distinction between nature and technology. Despite efforts by Jeremy Rifkin and other civil society groups to raise ethics and ecosystem concerns, they and their worries were rebuffed as irrelevant by the Supreme Court and the patent system’s traditional stakeholders in the Diamond v. Chakrabarty case. In Europe, life form patentability quickly became an exceptional question, to be solved by democratically-elected legislators in the newly powerful European Parliament. Legislators grappled with questions of whether biotechnology products were forms of life, how they should make this determination, and what kinds of knowledge and expertise were relevant to their discussions and to the patent system. They decided that they were indeed dealing with matters of life, and that such matters required consideration of ethics, as well as socioeconomic and ecosystem implications. They eventually passed the European Union’s Directive for the Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions, but with important limitations.

Keywords:   Diamond v. Chakrabarty, patentability, nature, Jeremy Rifkin, civil society, ethics, US Supreme Court, European Parliament, biotechnology, expertise

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