“Supreme Court of Canada rules the Harvard mouse cannot be patented. In a 5-4 judgment, the court said the mouse does not qualify as an invention under the federal Patent Act of 1869.”
“Life forms are not light bulbs, and mammals are not machines,” said Joanne Dufay of Greenpeace Canada. “This is a victory for life.”
“A controversial mouse, genetically modified to make it better suited for cancer research, may not be patented under current Canadian law …”
In this case, I agree with the environmentalist that patenting life forms is unethical. I don’t believe patents should be allowed to apply to life forms. First of all, it is not created; it is only modified genetically. Second, the ethical concerns start picking up the closer the life form gets to being human and what happens when the modification is to a human adult, or to a human embryo, or to a human organ? But one of my main concerns is how it affects our freedom.
Patents are, after all, special privileges and restrictions on others, so what types of things are allowed to be patented and how a patent infringement is decided in the case of an unintended “violation” are perfectly debatable questions. If a patented life form runs loose or reproduces, and spreads to the property of others (e.g. another laboratory), or contaminates another strain of mice unintentionally, the “creator” of the mouse should not have a claim to invade that other person’s property to retrieve “his” mice, or a claim to that other person’s mice.
The second kind of claim is the kind of problem we are dealing with in the Percy Schmeiser case of genetically modified canola. The first kind of claim would be outright abuse in my opinion, but it’s conceivable too.
Other references on the mouse: