Gene Patents Impeding Data Sharing? | Science

Lock Up the Genome, Lock Down Research? by Eliot Marshall, Science

Researchers say that gene patents impede data sharing and innovation; patent lawyers say there’s no evidence for this.

(C)ritics say the system can work against innovators. Instead of promoting the sharing of ideas, it is often used to dam up knowledge. A handful of recent studies, for instance, have concluded that gene-related intellectual property has created a legal thicket that stymies biomedical science and locks away data that could improve clinical tests. Similar, but more muted, complaints have emerged in other fields, from computer science to engineering. That’s far from the innovation and sharing that the patent system is supposed to encourage, critics add.

On the other side, champions of the patent system, including many lawyers and a former patent court chief judge who spoke with Science, say such attacks are unsupported by the evidence. Claims by gene patent critics, they argue, are based on emotion. “The idea that scientific researchers are being sued or threatened with lawsuits [for doing research] is a fiction,” says Paul Michel, former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the top patent review body below the Supreme Court. “I don’t know where this myth comes from.”

Some researchers, meanwhile, are working to sidestep patent battles by making sure that gene sequences and other kinds of data are quickly entered into public databases, where they are free to all.

Continue reading….

Science 4 October 2013:
Vol. 342 no. 6154 pp. 72-73
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6154.72

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