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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tsk tsk design language: Watch out for those lawyers

As some Darwinists would like to drive design language out of biology, from a recent law journal article:
Who invents life: intelligent designers, blind watchmakers, or genetic engineers?

Graham Dutfield
Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice, Advance Access published online on April 22, 2010 | doi:10.1093/jiplp/jpq034

Legal context.: Judgments since the 1980s have confirmed that living things may be claimed in patent applications, albeit with some divergence between jurisdictions. To a large extent, such extension of the scope of patents has followed analogically from the patenting of hormones and antibiotics. The question arises of whether the analogies deployed and resultant subject matter expansionism can be justified given the current state of our knowledge of life and of highly complex living processes.

Key points.: Fundamental difficulties exist in the patenting of whole life forms. These difficulties are made evident in scientific, philosophical, and theological discussion concerning the appearance of design in life and the special qualities all life forms share that differentiate them from non-living chemical compositions. Such discussion indicates that life is inherently more complex that than any human artefact, and continues not to be well understood. Discussion also points to the autonomy and extraordinary self-creativity of life forms which again suggests that inventorship claims to whole organisms may not be scientifically justifiable at present.

Practical significance.: It may be time to rethink the metaphors and analogies used to justify the patenting of whole organisms. Living things are not just chemicals or machines, and are certainly not human artefacts.

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