Garrett (garote) wrote,
Garrett
garote

Something's rotten in patents

To invent a novel gene sequence, scientists rearrange the data that codes for collections of enzymes and promoters and other elements, often combining sequences taken from other organisms. As far as I know, no scientist has yet invented a sequence from whole cloth that happens to assemble an enzyme to catalyze a brand new reaction - only discovered them in currently living or newly bred organisms and collected them for use elsewhere.

No one can patent the process that turns genes into enzymes into metabolic activity into behavior, because that all clearly existed way before any scientist thought to examine it. With that being the case, why do patents on genes get to include this mechanism in their description of what makes them "novel"?

Compare it to the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg could patent that device, no problem. But say he sticks the letters into a particular arrangement inside the press, so it only generates a particular page of print. Does his patent now cover the words on the paper? The arrangement of words itself? If someone else invented another device - a slide projector for example - and projected the same words onto a wall, would they be disqualified for a patent because it's the same words, even though the mechanism for making them appear is totally different?

How is this different from Monsanto, or anyone else, claiming patent rights to a copy of the gene sequence inside some creature they assembled from parts in their lab? Aren't they claiming patent rights to the arrangement of words - the output that emerges from the device - rather than something novel in the device itself?

I'm a software programmer by trade. I can't patent my work, and I understand why. Nevertheless I can assert copyright, and take people to court for infringement if they violate my license. Why does Monsanto get to patent their sequences, just for being inside a different mechanism - a biological one?

("Because otherwise they wouldn't have a business model" Is not a valid reason.)
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