The patent, a tool originally created to insure that inventors could share in the financial returns and benefits deriving from the use of their inventions, has become the primary mechanism through which the private sector has advanced its claims to ownership over genes, proteins, and entire organisms. No individual, institution or corporation should be able to hold patents or claim ownership rights over genes or gene sequences, whether naturally occurring or modified.
The conversion of genes and gene sequences into corporate property through patent monopolies is counter to the interests of the peoples of this country and of the world. This is particularly so because enormous amounts of public funds have been invested in the genetic research that underlies many of these patents. The Human Genome Project alone cost U.S. taxpayers over 3 billion dollars. The public's investment in new technologies is betrayed when public interests are circumvented for private gain by these types of patents. Finally, the patenting of genes and gene sequences poses a significant threat to human health and the innovation necessary to address that threat. In both the U.S. and developing nations overall, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. Over 200,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with breast or ovarian cancer. Rather than accelerate research and treatment, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene patents restrict access and subsequently create barriers to the development of the vital medical and scientific information needed to advance our collective fight against a clear public health threat.
The US Constitution states that patents are intended to “promote the progress of science.” The Council for Responsible Genetics believes that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to allow the patenting of human genes represents a major failure and misuse of power, and runs counter to the American tradition. The Council for Responsible Genetics supports efforts to overturn this misguided policy.
The US Congress has repeatedly changed patent laws when faced with major public pressure, as when, for example, it excluded nuclear weapons from patentability in 1982.
The Council for Responsible Genetics works with a coalition of health and patient advocacy groups to build support for a ban on gene patents. A main component of this campaign is to identify and explain the practical risks of patenting for innovation and the open exchange of scientific data.
CRG Special Report: Scope and Cost of Gene Patenting in the United States
Gene Patents: Nature's Handiwork ( Court Invalidates Biotech Firm's Human Gene Patents), by Andrew Thibedeau, GeneWatch March 2010
CRG Amicus Brief in Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. USPTO, et al., (Appeal) December 2010
CRG Amicus Brief in Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. United States Patent and Trademark Office, et al., September, 2009.
CRG Statement in Support of ACLU Gene Patents Suit April, 2009.
No Patents on Life Petition
CRG letter to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Gene Patents
Special Issue of GeneWatch on Gene Patents
Gene Patenting in Canada, by James Rusthoven, GeneWatch 2011
Who Owns Your DNA?, by Sharon Begley, Newsweek, February 2010
Of Transgenic Mice and Men by Peter Shorett, GeneWatch, September 2002
The End of the Revolution by Matthew Albright, GeneWatch, May 2002
No Patents on Life Working Group Update by Rebecca Charnas, GeneWatch, May 2002
The Human Genome Projects: Help or Hindrance for Gene Patenting?
by Matthew Albright, GeneWatch, May 2001
Biotech Patenting 101 by Warren Kaplan, GeneWatch, May 2001
Patents on Cells, Genes, and Organisms Undermine the Exchange of Scientific Ideas by Doreen Stabinsky and Jonathan King, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 February 1999
Patenting Life: Social and Ethical Issues by Sheldon Krimsky, Science for the People, October 1980
CRG in the Press
Genome Redacted, Daily Kos, August, 2009.
Myriad's BRCA Patents Not Only Illegal but Unconstitutional, Genome Web Daily, May 2009
"Do Gene Patents Wrap Research in Red Tape?" San Francisco Chronicle
American Civil Liberties Union Legal Challenge to Gene Patents
ETC Group (formerly RAFI)
International Center for Technology Assessment
Foundation on Economic Trends