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Eight Reasons Why Patents Should Not Be Extended to Plants and Animals
By
L. Busch
 
Keywords:  Patent law. 
Correct citation: Busch, L. (1995), "Eight Reasons Why Patents Should Not Be Extended to Plants and Animals." Biotechnology and Development Monitor, No. 24, p. 24.

Biotechnology industry interests normally call for an extension of patents to plants and animals as a requirement to stimulate investments in biotechnological research, and to insure the wide distribution of the benefits from such research. Lawrence Busch, on the other hand questions whether such an extension will serve this purpose. If intellectual property rights must be extended to living organisms, he argues, another legal form would be needed.

The legal theory behind patent law is quite simple. Patents are contracts between the state and the inventor in which the inventor is granted a monopoly for a limited period of time in return for full disclosure of the invention. In principle, both the inventor and the public benefit from this. But evidence suggests that an extension of patent law to higher organisms is not likely to serve the public good for several reasons:

If we must extend intellectual property rights to living organisms, then we need a legal form designed specifically for them. Such a system might resemble the current plant variety protection system, although it too suffers from an insistence on distinctness, uniformity, and homogeneity, which are qualities that may be of little value outside the legal arena. A better system would focus on agronomic characteristics, food quality, and nutritional value, and permit the unrestricted use of protected material in research.
L. Busch

Lawrence Busch is Professor of Sociology at Michigan Sate University, USA



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