The Normative Molecule: Patent Rights and DNA
HYLE International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry, Vol. 26, 2020
25 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2020 Last revised: 21 Oct 2020
Date Written: May 19, 2020
Throughout the biotechnology age, fears about the distortionary effects of property and other legal institutions upon the health and self-determination of individuals and societies have accompanied more popularly sensational fears about unscrupulous choices within the scientific community itself. Still, for most of that time the prevailing legal regime both in the United States and in Europe remained generally permissive of ownership of, and exclusionary power over, the fruits of much biomedical research, though this leniency took different forms and came about in different ways. In particular, the policy of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to grant patents on genetic compositions such as DNA sequences produced an extensive landscape of legal rights that would eventually provoke a backlash in both legal and popular opinion during the Myriad Genetics lawsuit. This case study examines the normative dimension of patent rights over isolated DNA sequences through the lens of the Myriad case, discussing the institutional context in which the case arose and identifying ethical lessons that the case offers.
Keywords: patent, DNA, biotechnology, Myriad, genetic, genomic, innovation
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