Do Gene Sequences Deserve Patent Protection?

10 12 2009

Should human genes ever be the subject of patent protection?

That’s the provocative question asked Thursday by Nathan Koppel in the WSJ’s weekly Law Journal column.

Let’s get you up to speed: the Patent and Trademark Office doesn’t grant patents over actual genes in the human body, but does award patents for genetic sequences that have been identified by researchers. Patents also extend to genetic tests and to correlations that scientists have drawn between genetic sequences and medical conditions, such as hearing loss, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

But should such gene sequences be patentable? Many doctors, patients and academics say no, that they’re the products of nature and should never give rise to property rights. Gene patents, they say, create monopolies, allowing patent holders to block alternative tests and research that might ultimately yield better, and cheaper, medical care.


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