The Constitution

Patrick O'Neil patrick at corona
Sat Apr 8 18:50:35 EST 1995

On Fri, 7 Apr 1995, James Burns wrote:

> > discovery or procedure?  You are free to communicate insofar as it 
> > doesn't run counter to the interests of your employer.
> > 
> > Patrick
>  I would have to agree with this statement. I am ethical opposed to the 
> patenting of scientific information because of the situation as described 
> above. 
>   Science works by a free exchange of information and sharing of 
> techniques. Patents prevent science from functioning as it ought to. When 
> a scientist/company receives a patent on a technique/organism...

  I often consider this problem.  On one hand, as a scientist I hate the 
idea that some very useful and exciting information may be witheld so as 
to protect a company's patent application -- or worse, a gene or organism 
is patented so that any use of such requires a tithe to the corporation.  
At the same time I fully understand that it is companies that produce the 
apparati, kits, and other tools that we require for our studies.  It is 
also companies that take scientific research and translate it into new 
medicine or treatments or products.  This being the case, economic 
interests MUST be protected or no biotech nor pharmaceutical companies 
would exist.  
  One thing for certain, as far as I'm concerned, is that any gene that
occurs naturally, in any natural organism - or any naturally occurring
organism for that matter, should not be patentable.  It is ridiculous to
me that a gene I carry within my own body might not be mine to "play with"
or study as I deem fit to do:

  "What are you doing there?"
  "Collecting a sample of epithelial tissues from myself so I can extract 
  "Err, what gene or genes exactly?"
  "Oh, I thought I would check out such-and-such gene."
  "You can't.  The rights to that gene are owned by Company X."
  "It's MY gene from MY body."
  "Doesn't matter. You can't publish or economically benefit from 
   research you conduct on that gene unless you pay the company.  They 
   could nail you for patent infringement."  

  A de novo gene or a lab-created lifeform, OK, but not a preexisting form
-- the company and its scientists didn't create the gene or organism, only
found what was already there.  As far as I'm concerned, any DNA that I can
extract from organisms that I can go outside and freely collect should be
absolutely free of any patent protections. 
  It's a good thing that no one patented the rights to SN1 or SN2 
reactions or everyone would be violating a patent just by living but it 
almost seems that in today's climate, just such a thing would be possible 
(or attempted) if they were only delineated today.


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