Intellectual property considerations in biology are one of the more worrying trends currently being negotiated in business and in the legal system. A court recently ruled that DNA is information, not intellectual property. Whether this holds as it moves through the court system in the US is unclear. But the impact of life patents (literally) is already being felt: “There are about 40,000 patents that currently protect some 20 percent of the human genome”. For more information on the impact of patents on breast cancer treatment, have a look at this article.
Patents are creating an entirely new economy (not sure of current figures, but IBM earned more than $1 billion from patents in 2007/2008). I see the value of some form of copyright protection and some sort of patent system. But as the system of protection morphs into a system of revenue, the metrics and the stakes change. On a side note, I don’t subscribe to the argument that patents encourage companies to invest in innovation. If that were true, then humanity would have seen very limited innovation prior to the arrival of the protection systems. Creative people – all of humanity for that matter – like to innovate, to create.