The Attack of the Clones: Patent Law and Stem Cell Research
Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 488-505, May 2003
Posted: 14 Oct 2004
This article considers the integral role played by patent law in respect of stem cell research. It highlights concerns about commercialization, access to essential medicines and bioethics. The article maintains that there is a fundamental ambiguity in the Patents Act 1990 (Cth) as to whether stem cell research is patentable subject matter. There is a need to revise the legislation in light of the establishment of the National Stem Cell Centre and the passing of the Research Involving Embryos Act 2002 (Cth). The article raises concerns about the strong patent protection secured by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and Geron Corporation in respect of stem cell research in the United States. It contends that a number of legal reforms could safeguard access to stem cell lines, and resulting drugs and therapies. Finally, this article explores how ethical concerns are addressed within the framework of the European Biotechnology Directive. It examines the decision of the European Patent Office in relation to the so-called Edinburgh patent, and the inquiry of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies into The Ethical Aspects of Patenting Involving Human Stem Cells.
Keywords: Patent law, stem cell research, human cloning, patent administration, examination guidelines, research exemption, compulsory licensing, competition law, European Biotechnology Directive, ethical objections
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