Patents & Other IP

Patents, along with laws and court decisions regarding intellectual property, can constrain or catalyze the development, marketing, and use of human biotechnologies. Two developments in 1980 dramatically influenced the development of biotechnology in the U.S.: Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, which transformed how inventions developed from federally-funded research are managed; and the Supreme Court ruled in Diamond v. Chakrabarty that living things, including genes, could be patented. However, the Supreme Court decision Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics in 2013 ruled that merely isolating human genes does not make them patentable.

Controversies and court cases about intellectual property have included lawsuits contesting ownership of biological tissues and genetic information; challenges by Indigenous communities trying to protect traditional knowledge; and disputes about patents on CRISPR gene-editing technology. 

Biopolitical Times

Two prominent groups of scientists, and two major American universities, are trying to patent methods for editing human embryos, with reproductive use clearly intended. Really. Right now.

Heritable genome editing – that is, altering the genes and traits of future children and generations – is prohibited in 70 countries and wildly controversial everywhere. But these people and institutions are laying the groundwork to capitalize on a future they apparently hope to make happen. This summary of what we currently know...

Biopolitical Times

Editors note: This article was originally published on and is reposted here with generous permission from Our Bodies Our Selves.

Six years ago, on June 13, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in AMP v. Myriad took a great step forward for women’s health by unanimously ruling that human genes could not be patented. Now a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives have released a bill that would allow companies to own our genes once again.

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