Patents Versus Patenting: Implications of Intellectual Property Protection for Biological Research

Zhen Lei and Brian D. Wright are in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 207 Giannini Hall, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.
Nature Biotechnology (Impact Factor: 41.51). 02/2009; 27(1):36-40. DOI: 10.1038/nbt0109-36
Source: PubMed


A new survey shows scientists consider the proliferation of intellectual property protection to have a strongly negative effect on research.

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    • "Intellectual property policy is premised on the idea that intellectual property rights ought to promote the conversion of scientific research into marketable products , but without limiting the exchange of ideas among scientists and the public ( Lei et al . 2009 ) . Achieving that balance is a contested process , since groups tend to disagree on how to balance private and public interests through intellectual property policy . Since the 1970s , policies in the United States have favored the privatization of scientific knowledge ( Block 2011 ) . As Cowen ( 2011 : 22 ) puts it , the fundamental p"
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    ABSTRACT: Neoliberalism is the political ideology behind efforts to commercialize university science. The development of genetically engineered (GE) crops has facilitated the commercialization process because GE crops generally have more restrictive intellectual property protections than conventional crops. Those restrictions have led some to question whether long-term university research and innovations are being compromised to protect short-term intellectual property interests. This concern is evident in two letters submitted by public-sector entomologists in February 2009 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The letters asserted that scientists are prohibited from conducting fully independent research on the efficacy and environmental impact of GE crops. In response to the letter, the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) negotiated an agreement between university scientists and seed companies to protect industry property rights while enabling university scientists to conduct research with more independence. Through a survey of public- and private-sector entomologists who are members of two regional entomologist research groups, we document scientists' perspectives on the adequacy of the ASTA agreement and whether those scientists have experienced limitations on their research projects involving efficacy and environmental impacts. Our findings show that limitations exist and that certain forms of public knowledge about crops are likely being compromised. These findings have implications for the legitimacy of current risk management institutions, as well as for future technological breakthroughs and innovations.
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    • "The design of a specific regime for platform technologies can also be foreseen, ensuring their diffusion either through extensive yet well-defined statutory-use conditions, or through licensing protocols, intervening directly at the level of innovation diffusion. Indeed, an internationally recognised wide-reaching academic research exemption for biological research tools might not, according to certain commentators, properly discourage universities' institutional administrators from pursuing strong exclusive rights and licensing strategies (Lei et al. 2009). Legal solutions have in this context been primarily based upon liability regimes, moderating the risks of excluding third parties from accessing the technologies. "
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    ABSTRACT: Focused on the impact of stringent intellectual property mechanisms over the uses of plant agricultural biodiversity in crop improvement, the article delves into a systematic analysis of the relationship between institutional paradigms and their technological contexts of application, identified as mass selection, controlled hybridisation, molecular breeding tools and transgenics. While the strong property paradigm has proven effective in the context of major leaps forward in genetic engineering, it faces a systematic breakdown when extended to mass selection, where innovation often displays a collective nature. However, it also creates partial blockages in those innovation schemes rested between on-farm observation and genetic modification, i.e. conventional plant breeding and upstream molecular biology research tools. Neither overly strong intellectual property rights, nor the absence of well delineated protection have proven an optimal fit for these two intermediary socio-technological systems of cumulative incremental innovation. To address these challenges, the authors look at appropriate institutional alternatives which can create effective incentives for in situ agrobiodiversity conservation and the equitable distribution of technologies in plant improvement, using the flexibilities of the TRIPS Agreement, the liability rules set forth in patents or plant variety rights themselves (in the form of farmers’, breeders’ and research exceptions), and other ad hoc reward regimes.
    06/2014; 10(14):29pp. DOI:10.1186/s40504-014-0014-7
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    • "Compared with previous studies on US scientists, our data shows a slightly lower frequency of material transfer. For example, on average US agricultural scientists transferred research tools 3.4 times per year (Lei et al., 2009), however, the Japanese agricultural scientists in our sample made 3.1 transfers per year. On average US biomedical scientists received 7.0 requests per year (2007), whereas the Japanese biomedical scientists received 4.4 requests per year. "
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