The right to obtain patent protection on living material: the causes and consequences of the United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty

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2007-01-01
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Howe, Kevin
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Christopher Curtis
Amy Bix
Sara Gregg
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Abstract

In 1980, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty that living material was in the category of patentable subject matter, provided that the living material was a product of human invention as opposed to a product of nature. The fact that the material was living or inanimate was held to be irrelevant to the issue of eligibility for a patent. This ruling was the centerpiece in a series of events that combined to secure the status of animate material as private property. These events fundamentally changed the nature of scientific research in the academic community and the relationship between the university and the private market. These events also had a chilling effect on the pubic debate over the safety, ethics, and morality of commercializing biological material. As a result, the citizens of the United States have never fully dealt with this complex ethical issue except from a purely economic perspective.

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