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This chapter considers the question of patents and genetic resources (GR), as currently being discussed in various international fora, in the light of the function of intellectual property. In particular, the chapter supports the proposal by developing countries, to require, in an international legal instrument, mandatory disclosure of the origin of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge (TK) in patent applications, with a view to realising in an effective way fair and equitable benefits sharing as required by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This proposal has also been supported by the Vatican (Holy See) on the basis of Catholic social teaching, which this chapter discusses in condensed form. Mandatory disclosure would provide a structural mechanism to ensure that the fruits of exploitation of TK/GR benefit indigenous community, who are often poor and whose living habitats and way of life are often under threat.
This introduction summarizes the background and themes of the book. It introduces themes and controversies: the relevance of religion to public discourse, the role of the Vatican and other religious actors in global debates, the IP obligations imposed by TRIPS and other international agreements, the interaction of patents with the sharing of benefits from traditional knowledge and genetic resources (TK/GR), the benefits and the ethical challenges from biotechnology, the patenting of living things and gene sequences, the effect of seed patents on agriculture and farmers, and others. The overarching theme is that while biotechnology patents may promote important contributions to society, they also present other significant impacts on society that must be considered.
This volume brings together a unique collection of legal, religious, ethical, and political perspectives to bear on debates concerning biotechnology patents, or 'patents on life'. The ever-increasing importance of biotechnologies has generated continual questions about how intellectual property law should treat such technologies, especially those raising ethical or social-justice concerns. Even after many years and court decisions, important contested issues remain concerning ownership of and rewards from biotechnology - from human genetic material to genetically engineered plants – and regarding the scope of moral or social-justice limitations on patents or licensing practices. This book explores a range of related issues, including questions concerning morality and patentability, biotechnology and human dignity, and what constitute fair rewards from genetic resources. It features high-level international, interfaith, and cross-disciplinary contributions from experts in law, religion, and ethics, including academics and practitioners, placing religious and secular perspectives into dialogue to examine the full implications of patenting life.