Sunday, 2 March 2008

Gene patenting: Pros and Cons


Centralization, specialization

Rewarding, Incentives for further inventions

No further secrets


Quality control



Lost of expertise

Right of previous contributed researchers

I have found this below interesting essay about gene patenting wrote by an anonymous author in the internet.

I. Patents for Biotechnology
(Pros and cons of genetic patents)
Biotechnology is closely related to drug industries. 90% of biotechnology sales in the
U.S. are from pharmaceuticals. The number of granted biopharmaceutical patents in the
U.S. is 5170 in 2001, while only 533 in Europe.1 This result depends on the difference
between them about genetic patents policy.
There are significant advantages for allowing genetic patents. First, the patents in this field
clearly promote invention. The drug industry is the field where patent protection is easier to
enforce because of the relative simplicity of the industry and its products. Second, the
patents encourage many entities get into the research. Until the 1970s, nearly all molecular
biology research was government or university sponsored. After genetic patents were
admitted in the U.S., small firms can raise funds for research activities by making their
knowledge into assets through patent system. New drugs require knowledge from broad
fields, so the collaboration among many entities is effective for making good research.
Third, the patents have an effect to promote diffusion of new research by filing research
1 Derwent Intellectual Property. Patenting in the biopharmaceutical industry- comparing
the US with Europe. December 2002.
On the other hand, disadvantages of allowing genetic patents are as follows. First, too
many patents may adversely slow down research activities. As the risks to infringe existing
patents grow, pharmaceutical industries are forced to specialize in particular fields.
Increased costs for litigation concerning patents might also impede research activities.
Second are the adverse effects on the diffusion of the products. Allowing genetic patents
will lead the price of drugs increase due to the license fees. This price increase can diminish
high social rates of return of the drugs by restraining their spreading to the public.
Furthermore, patent holders might ask the withdrawal of drugs that infringe their patent
rights, even if the drugs are already widely used.
I recommend that EU should make genetic patents easier as the U.S. already did by
following reasons. First, the needs for genetic patents from creators are very high. The
number of biopharmaceutical patent applications has been increasing continuously. It has
become from 430 in 1992 to 3544 in 2001.2 It means that creators regard genetic patents as
2 In the U.S., the number of application in this field is 34,527 in 2001. Ibid.
useful to advance their innovative activities.
Second, relaxation of the conditions of genetic patents is essential to promote the
international competitiveness of Europe in biotechnology. Industries in this field have
broadened their activities worldwide (We must note that leading companies in the U.S. and
Japan has already applied and held biopharmaceutical patents in Europe.). Collaboration
among many entities including government, universities and industries is important in
biotechnology to accumulate knowledge from various fields. Genetic patents will promote
the growth of firms and universities addressing the challenging research in Europe.
How do we deal with the disadvantages expected? The problem of patent thickets might
occur, but it can be solved by the vertical integration and cross licensing among patent
holders. As for the litigation, some special measures to restrict the increase of the costs (e.g.
compulsory arbitration) are the possible solution.
The problem of diffusion is more serious. I think this problem should be solved by the
support from the government. It takes enormous costs to make innovations or inventions in
biotechnology. The costs should be shared properly between creators, consumers and the
government. The subsidies from the government will contribute to restrain the price
increase due to the license fees. Furthermore, compulsory licensing system will prevent
creators from keeping their patented knowledge unused.
By introducing these methods, European biotechnology firms can increase their
incentives for innovative activities, which will strengthen their competitiveness in the
world. The welfare of European citizens will be also promoted by the development of new
drugs and treatments using innovative biotechnology. We must note that effective measures
to secure the appropriate diffusion, namely, the speedy distribution of the products with
reasonable price, should be implemented at the same time by governmental assistance.
Overall, this is a strong answer. The author clearly states both the pros and cons of
patent protection for biotechnology. Note how each point is clearly emphasized (e.g.
“first”, “second”, “third”) making it easy for the reader to follow the argument.
Similarly, in making policy recommendations, the author again clearly states the reasons
why the recommendation is made. Also, the author does a good job of noting the
potential problem of diffusion, and creatively offers a potential solution.
One caveat: the answer could be strengthened with a stronger introduction. Although
each section is well-written, it would help to have a statement of the final
recommendation at the beginning of the answer, so the reader can evaluate the pros and
cons of patenting with the final recommendation in mind.

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