Patents and Control: Ethics and the Patentability of Novel Beings and Advanced Biotechnologies in Europe
Forthcoming: (2021) 21(3) Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
16 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2020 Last revised: 16 Sep 2020
Date Written: July 28, 2020
This article focuses primarily on to what extent novel beings, and particularly, beings which display something akin to human consciousness or agency would be (or should be) patentable in Europe. Patents grant the patent holder a right to exclude others from using the patented invention for the period of patent grant (usually 20 years). This allows the patent holder to control how that invention can or cannot be used by others downstream. Accordingly, the potential for patentability of novel beings gives rise to a myriad of ethical issues including: to what extent is it appropriate for patent holders to retain and exercise patents over ‘novel beings’; how issues of ‘agency’ displayed by any ‘novel beings’ would fit within the current patent framework, if at all; and to what extent existing exclusions from patentability might exclude patents on ‘novel beings’ or whether changes within patent law may be needed if patents over ‘novel beings’ are deemed ethically problematic. This article focuses on such issues, and in doing so, also sheds light on the role of ethical issues within the patenting of advanced biotechnologies more generally.
Keywords: Patents, Patent Ethics, Biotechnology, Novel beings, Morality Provisions
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