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Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of Genome Research: Gene Patenting

This guide provides resources that will help the user understand the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of genome research--research into the genomes of humans, plants, and other organisms. Among other topics, this guide covers gene patenting.

Robert Cook-Deegan, Gene Patents and Policy: The Neverending Story, 2010

Gene Patenting Debate - from Chicago Council on Science and Technology


Although there was some discussion of DNA/gene patenting in the 1960s and 70s, public debate on gene patenting began to intensify in the 1980s as a result of two events:

  • U.S. Supreme Court decision in Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980), which held that a live, man-made microorganism is patentable (see Justia)
  • 1982 establishment by U.S. Congress of a centralized appellate court for patent cases: the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC)

In 2013, the “BRCA case,” Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, No. 11-725, (formerly Association for Molecular Pathology v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) was in the news. This lawsuit challenged the legality of U.S. patents over breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. On June 13, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (see ACLU website).

Gene Patenting Resources