Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

5. Genomics Knowledge

Halla Thorsteinsdottir, Abdallah S Daar, Richard D Smith, Peter A Singer

Intellectual property rights and patent legislation (1)

  • Non-exclusion means lack of incentive for commercial production of knowledge
  • Patents grant artificial exclusion and thus limited monopoly profits
  • Patenting creates a ‘club good’ and socially sub-optimal consumption of genomics

There is a lack of incentive to produce knowledge if those producing it are not able to secure a return on their investment through the property of exclusion. This may be addressed through direct public finance and/or provision, regulation or financial incentives. The latter is the essence of intellectual property regulations/patent system which grants temporary monopoly, through artificial legislative exclusion, to enable costs to be recouped.

Patenting thus encourages genomics to be excludable, creating a 'club good’, and a socially sub-optimal consumption of genomics. But patent laws have not been adapted to reflect new developments presented by genomics - that ‘natural’ DNA can be a 'novel invention' and patented.