Monday, May 22, 1995
By Steve Usdin
WASHINGTON - Although Jeremy Rifkin and the religious members of the Joint Appeal Against Human and Animal Patenting succeeded in attracting the media spotlight by using breathless language and rhetorical flourishes in announcing their campaign last week, the arguments they presented were not novel. In fact, many if not most of the legal and procedural concerns they brought up have been considered by the Supreme Court and various lower courts, as well as the Patent and Trademark Office and, to some extent, the Congress.
The legal and procedural arguments raised by the Joint Appeal start from the premise that the patent office is exceeding its authority by granting patents on living organisms and that the issue must be specifically addressed by Congress. They have also raised issues relative to the procedures the PTO used to notify the public about the policy.
A review of a dozen law review articles between 1992 and 1995, particularly "Patenting Nonnaturally Occurring, Man-Made Life: A Practical Look at the Economic, Environmental, and Ethical Challenges Facing Animal Patents" (Michael Sellers, 47 Arkansas Law Review 269, 1994), reveals