Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

"Patents on Life" Book (Religious, Legal, and Other Views) Coming Soon

Coming in the next few days and weeks from Cambridge University Press: 

Patents on Life_Cover

The book contains 16 interdisciplinary essays (law, theology, ethics, politics, business) on biotechnology patents and issues of justice. A bit from the description at Amazon (see also the Cambridge Press page here): 

This volume brings together a unique collection of legal, religious, ethical, and political perspectives to bear on debates concerning biotechnology patents, or 'patents on life'. ... Even after many years and court decisions, important contested issues remain concerning ownership of and rewards from biotechnology -- from human genetic material to genetically engineered plants – and regarding the scope of moral or social-justice limitations on patents or licensing practices. This book explores a range of related issues, including questions concerning morality and patentability, biotechnology and human dignity, and what constitute fair rewards from genetic resources.

The issues the book addresses appear regularly in the news: gene-sequence patents and their effect on biomedical innovation and costs, "biopiracy" of developing-nation resources and its effect on indigenous peoples, genetically modified crops and their effect on farmers and farming practices, biologic-drug patents, gene-editing (CRISPR) technology patents.

This book responds to the fact that such issues concerning biotechnology ownership, patents, etc., have received considerable secular ethical (as well as political and economic) analysis--but relatively little theological/ethical analysis by religious traditions, leaders, and thinkers. There is plenty of religious bioethics, including on new genetic technologies, but relatively little of it addresses ownership, patents, and so forth. The Vatican has actually been a fairly active voice (emphasizing a moderate view of patent rights, their role in innovation, but also the need to temper them to ensure access for the poor and fair rewards to indigenous peoples)--but the Church's role is not as well known as it should be.

The premise of this book is that the great religious traditions and their leaders and thinkers can speak to those issues but haven’t addressed or studied them much. They need to understand the basics of patent law and policy better. Conversely, the many lawyers, policymakers, and activists engaged in moral debates over biotech patents and the creation and distribution of technologies haven't appreciated the contributions that religious thought can make. They need to understand religious social thought better. 

This book, with its multidisciplinary contents, is a one-stop, readable resource for all of the groups above.

Please tell your libraries to buy the book! And--just in time for holiday gift-giving--you can pre-order it at Amazon in Kindle (delivery Oct. 24) or hardcover (available December) versions.

The book also reflects both US and European approaches to the patentability of genetic material and the role of moral considerations in granting patents, both topics that involve interesting trans-Atlantic contrasts and comparisons. And it also reflects multiple religious approaches: Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant (both evangelical and mainline).

Our contributors include leading IP legal scholars, jurists, and business/science leaders Margo Bagley (Emory), Roman Cholij (Von Hugel and private law practice), Paul Heald (Illinois), Michael Kock (formerly a lead exec with Syngenta, now a consultant on plant-related biotech), Kathy Liddell (Cambridge), Christopher Rennie-Smith (formerly Chair of the Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office), Josh Sarnoff (DePaul), Ingrid Schneider (Hamburg), Katrina Sideri (Ghent U.). And they include leading religious experts in theology, social ethics, religious law, and the relevant civil-law questions, including Michael Broyde (Emory, Jewish law), Steve Colecchi (formerly with the USCCB), Mohammed El-Said (Lancashire Law School, expert in IP, trade, and Islamic law), Osvaldo Neves (formerly the Vatican's lead IP expert), Simon Ravenscroft (ethics/theology), Steven Weiner (Jewish law), and Paul Wojda (St. Thomas, theology).  

The book grew out of a fall 2015 conference in Cambridge co-sponsored by the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy (U. of St. Thomas, Law and Catholic Studies) and the Von Hugel Institute (St. Edmund's College, Cambridge). Both of those Catholic social-thought institutes also provided ongoing support for the development of the chapters and manuscript. Thanks to both of them--and especially to our own Lisa Schiltz, who (as Murphy co-director throughout the whole project) has been especially generous with her guidance and support!


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