Open Source Model in Bioinformatics: Intellectual Property Challenges and Implications

National Conference of Intellectual Property Law, AMU, Aligarh, 2010

Posted: 15 Apr 2010 Last revised: 30 Mar 2013

See all articles by Tabrez Ahmad

Tabrez Ahmad

Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU)

Date Written: February 5, 2010


The sequencing, storage and retrieval of genetic information has generated new possibilities for understanding the function and structure of genes and proteins. Gene chip or microarray technology has also been vital to the analysis of genetic sequences. Taking its lead from computer technology, this technique has revolutionized genomic research. Bioinformatics provides the computational tools to effectively store analyse sequence and combine the data based on experimental and engineering aspects of molecular biology and produces high - throughput and high quality sequential data. This illustrates the convergence of the biotechnology and software industry. Bioinformatics is thus the glue that integrates information flows in molecular biology and information technology.

One of the omnipresent factors in Bioinformatics is the databases, which are indispensable tools of high commercial value in storing and manipulating genomic information. They evolve not only in terms of their sheer number, but also in terms of the stored data and their tools for access. When the ever- changing legal environment interacts with the result created from these data bases, it puts the scientists who create, access and use the data bases on horns of dilemma. These problems mainly concern the scope of a range of Intellectual Property Rights in the assembly, accessing and processing of the data in these databases.

The Intellectual Property tools influencing the field of bioinformatics are mainly the laws of Patent, Trade Secret, Copyright and Data protection. The mode and scope of protection available under each of these intangible rights however vary. Copyright and Database laws of protection are notable and significant methods of exploiting innovations in Bioinformatics. The subtle distinction of Database law from Copyright law raises a plethora of questions on the scope and utility of these two instruments in protecting bioinformatics databases. It is these issues that this paper will investigate.

At the outset the Part 1 of the paper will explore the detailed investigation and analysis of the scope of Copyright and Database law in Bioinformatics. Subsequently, an analysis of the public and private interest issues of copyright in Bioinformatics and an examination of the concerns in copyright ownership will also be explored. Part 2 will look at the patenting of bioinformatic systems. It will consider whether the popularity for software and Internet business patents will be translated into the life sciences. Part 3 will consider whether open source software and peer to peer technology can counter the trend towards privatization and how the open source software movement has shadowed the Bioinformatics developments.

The result emanating from this interdisciplinary research paper would be of importance and interest to the academic community, the bioinformatics corporate, Intellectual Property and competition lawyers, policy makers and the society at large.

Keywords: Open Source, Closed Source, General Public License, Linux, GNU

Suggested Citation

Ahmad, Tabrez, Open Source Model in Bioinformatics: Intellectual Property Challenges and Implications (February 5, 2010). National Conference of Intellectual Property Law, AMU, Aligarh, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Tabrez Ahmad (Contact Author)

Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) ( email )

Hyderabad, IN Telangana 500032
+918755929751 (Phone)


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