The increasing promise of federal funding for mapping and sequencing the human genome has brought with it renewed attention in the research science community to issues of intellectual property protection for products of biotechnology research. Echoing concerns raised a decade ago in the debate over commercialization of academic biomedical research, scientists have called for the free availability of all information generated through the Human Genome Project and have argued against allowing private intellectual property rights in such knowledge. Meanwhile, private parties have quietly been obtaining patents on bits and pieces of the human genome from the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Notwithstanding the willingness of the PTO to issue these patents, the patents may still be vulnerable to challenges to their validity in the courts. Patent claims to human DNA sequences raise unresolved issues under traditional patent doctrine. Moreover, even if the patent claims are valid under existing law, one might question the wisdom of issuing patents on DNA sequences in the human genome to private parties, particularly at a time .when the government is devoting public resources to a concerted research effort to generate this information. This Article examines some of these issues.
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