Copyrightability of Recombinant DNA Sequences

64 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2013 Last revised: 17 Jul 2016

See all articles by Dan L. Burk

Dan L. Burk

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: 1989


The recent emergence and rapid growth of biotechnology as a commercial industry has raised serious questions concerning the role of patent law as the industry's dominant form of intellectual property protection. Several commentators, drawing on an analogy to computer software protection, have suggested copyright law as an alternative method of protecting recombinant DNA innovation. This article reviews these arguments in light of recent court decisions and scholarly commentary concerning copyright of computer software.

The article argues that copyright law is not sacrosanct, but rather represents a particular scope of proprietary interests that may be used to accommodate the needs of new technologies such as biotechnology. The article asserts, however, that the decision to apply copyright protection to such a technology should be based on policy rather than on analogy. The article reviews the basic characteristics ofboth the science of molecular biology and of the biotechnology industry, and, by contrasting these characteristics to those of the software industry, concludes that, as a matter of policy, copyright is not the most appropriate form of intellectual property protection for biotechnology.

Keywords: copyright, DNA, patent, intellectual property, biotechnology, innovation, sui generis

JEL Classification: O31, O32, O33, O34, L52, L65

Suggested Citation

Burk, Dan L., Copyrightability of Recombinant DNA Sequences (1989). Jurimetrics, Vol.29, No.4, 1989; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2013-90. Available at SSRN:

Dan L. Burk (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

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