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This chapter advances the argument that religious and ethical reasoning have a role to play in policy debates about patent law, and also in some patent law cases. We begin at the most general level, by arguing that in democratic, pluralist societies, moral and religious argument have a legitimate contribution to make to public discourse tout court. We then make a case for the relevance of religious and moral deliberation for patent law in particular, given that inventions and new technologies that seek patent protection sometimes have significant repercussions for wider society, and patent protection is a way of encouraging and supporting their development. We also consider ways in which religion and ethics might be said to count as relevant evidence not only in patent policy debates, but also in patent proceedings. We address this against the background of the ‘politics of knowledge’ that has arisen in Europe and the United States, and include reference to the explicit immorality exclusion found in European patent legal systems. Given that the interpretation and application of the immorality exclusion has been controversial with lawyers, we finally propose an alternative, potentially more fruitful approach to the exclusion, treating it as a ‘policy lever’.
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.
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