A Caltech Library Service

Patenting Human Genes: the Advent of Ethics in the Political Economy of Patent Law

Berkowitz, Ari and Kevles, Daniel J. (1998) Patenting Human Genes: the Advent of Ethics in the Political Economy of Patent Law. Humanities Working Paper, 165. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Just as the development of technology is a branch of the history of political and economy, so is the evolution of patent law. The claim is well illustrated by the attempts mounted in recent years in the United States and Europe to patent DNA sequences that comprise fragments of human genes. Examination of these efforts reveals a story that is partly familiar: Individuals, companies, and governments have been fighting over the rights to develop potentially lucrative products based on human genes. The battle has turned in large part on whether the grant of such rights would serve a public economic and biotechnological interest. Yet the contest has raised issues that have been, for the most part, historically unfamiliar in patent policy -- whether intellectual property rights should be granted in substances that comprise the fundamental code of human life. The elevation of human DNA to nearly sacred status has fostered the view among many groups that private ownership and exploitation of human DNA sequences is somehow both wrong and threatening, an unwarranted and dangerous violation of a moral code.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Group:Humanities Working Papers
Series Name:Humanities Working Paper
Issue or Number:165
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130802-113809142
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Berkowitz, Ari and Daniel J. Kevles. Patenting Human Genes the Advent of Ethics in the Political Economy of Patent Law. Pasadena, CA: California Institute of Technology, 1998. Humanities Working Paper, No. 165.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:39734
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:06 Sep 2013 21:37
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 05:10

Repository Staff Only: item control page