Are Engineered Genetic Sequences Copyrightable?: The U.S. Copyright Office Addresses a Matter of First Impression

35 Biotechnology Law Report 103 (2016)

21 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2016

See all articles by Christopher M. Holman

Christopher M. Holman

University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law

Claes Gustafsson

Independent

Andrew W. Torrance

University of Kansas - School of Law

Date Written: July 19, 2016

Abstract

In spite of the compelling logic that would support extending copyright to engineered DNA sequences, copyright protection for genetic code has not been legally recognized in the US, or as far as we know anywhere. The Copyright Act is silent on the point, the courts do not appear to have ever addressed the question, and the Copyright Office has taken the position that an engineered genetic sequence is not copyrightable subject matter. In an attempt to advance the conversation, we submitted an engineered DNA sequence to the Copyright Office for registration, and then appealed the Office’s decision refusing to register engineered genetic sequences. This article reports the outcome of our experiment, and provides as supplementary material the actual letter we submitted to the Copyright Office appealing its initial decision not to register genetic sequences (the “Appeal”), along with the Copyright Office’s letter denying our appeal (the “Denial), which provides a detailed explanation of the Office’s position regarding the copyrightability of engineered DNA. The bulk of the article is devoted to refuting the legal and policy justifications set forth by the Office in its Denial.

Keywords: Copyright, Copyright Office, Copyright Registration, DNA Copyright, Gene Copyright, Synthetic Biology, Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering

Suggested Citation

Holman, Christopher M. and Gustafsson, Claes and Torrance, Andrew W., Are Engineered Genetic Sequences Copyrightable?: The U.S. Copyright Office Addresses a Matter of First Impression (July 19, 2016). 35 Biotechnology Law Report 103 (2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2811739

Christopher M. Holman (Contact Author)

University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law ( email )

5100 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
United States

Claes Gustafsson

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Andrew W. Torrance

University of Kansas - School of Law ( email )

Green Hall
1535 W. 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045-7577
United States

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