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Patents on human genetic information have been controversial among different groups for different reasons. The purpose of a patent system is to motivate the commercial development of new technologies; it is thus unsurprising that those who have fundamental misgivings about commercial biotechnology would oppose gene patents. More intriguing is the controversy over gene patenting among those who welcome the commercial development of biotechnology products by private firms. While many proponents of commercial biotechnology assert that gene patents are essential to motivate product development, some have expressed more nuanced views, endorsing patents under some circumstances and condemning them as unnecessary or even counterproductive in others.


Reprinted from Human DNA: Law and Policy: International and Comparative Perspectives, 1997, 373-378, with permission of Kluwer Law International.