Pharmacogenomics, Genetic Tests, and Patent-Based Incentives: Perspectives on Properties of the Human Genome Project

Intellectual Property and Patents

Article Snapshot


F. Scott Kieff and Michael Meurer


Advances in Genetics, Vol. 50, pg. 399, Academic Press, 2003.


This article surveys law and policy issues relating to the Human Genome Project.

Policy Relevance

Many complex ethical, legal, and policy issues have arisen surrounding technologies involving human genetics. Many questions are still unanswered.

Main Points

  • In the past twenty years, new forms of property rights such as patents have developed to protect products and processes related to the Human Genome Project.

  • Patenting life forms raises key issues going forward, such as the question of patenting human organs and defining “human.”

  • At the patent office, examiners consider difficult issues such as whether gene technologies are “useful” and “nonobvious,” and how to draft written descriptions of living things.

  • Patents on genetic technologies raise new issues in competition policy and antitrust.

  • Some scholars take the view that human genes cannot be property; others support the idea that property rights in genes can be helpful to support markets and innovation.

  • As property rights, and patent rights in particular, evolve to protect gene technologies, the academic and business transactions and relationships supported by these rights have changed.

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