Genome Research - Gene Patenting

Gene Patenting

The US patent system was invented to protect the intellectual property of individuals who make novel and useful inventions. In general, natural products, such as DNA, are not patentable, but in 1980 the US Supreme Court ruled that such molecules could indeed be patented if they have been isolated or modified from the naturally occurring form.

Recently, patenting genes of pieces of DNA has become a very controversial topic because scientists can "invent" or sequence a gene without understanding it's natural function or proposing an explicit usefulness that it may provide. It is prohibitively expensive for other scientists to study a gene that is protected by a patent. Thus, patents, which exist for the purpose of encouraging research and fostering discovery, may really be hindering it.