The Myth of Patent Neutrality: Property, Patents, Animal Rights and Animal Welfare in Commissioner of Patents V. President and Fellows of Harvard College
Canada Business Law Journal, Vol. 39, p. 181, 2003 39 Can. Bus. L.J. 181 (2003)
33 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2010
Date Written: 2003
In Commissioner of Patents v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, the Supreme Court of Canada held that higher life forms such as an oncomouse are not patentable in Canada. Although disagreeing on the issue of patentability, the majority and dissenting judgments were consistent to the extent that both rejected ethical arguments concerning the legitimacy of granting patents in higher life forms; both took the view that, given the ostensible ethical neutrality of the patent regime, such arguments are misplaced. Ethical concerns arise not as part of the patenting process, but during upstream research and development and downstream commercial exploitation. The objective of this analysis is to take exception to the reasoning in both the majority and dissenting judgments concerning patent neutrality. Using the examples of animal rights and animal welfare, two controversial ethical issues raised in the decision, this analysis will demonstrate that the patent system is not ethical neutral in relation to the interests of non-human animals who are made to be the objects of intellectual property rights.
Keywords: animal welfare, animal rights, ethics, patents, intellectual property
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