Beyond Blue Gene: Intellectual Property and Bioinformatics
International Review of Industrial Property and Copyright Law, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 31-49, January 2003
24 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2004
This article considers the challenges posed to intellectual property law by the emerging field of bioinformatics. It examines the intellectual property strategies of established biotechnology companies, such as Celera Genomics, and information technology firms entering into the marketplace, such as IBM. First this paper argues that copyright law is not irrelevant to biotechnology, as some commentators would suggest. It claims that the use of copyright law and contract law is fundamental to the protection of biomedical and genomic databases. Second this article questions whether biotechnology companies are exclusively interested in patenting genes and genetics sequences. Recent evidence suggests that biotechnology companies and IT firms are patenting bioinformatics software and Internet business methods, as well as underlying instrumentation such as microarrays and genechips. Finally, this paper evaluates what impact the privatisation of bioinformatics will have on public research and scientific communication. It raises important questions about integration, interoperability, and the risks of monopoly. It finally considers whether open source software such as the Ensembl Project and peer to peer technology like DSAS will be able to counter this trend of privatisation.
Keywords: Intellectual property, bioinformatics, microarrays, gene chips, copyright law, patent law, contract law, free and open source software, peer to peer technology
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