The struggle against the patenting of a gene

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Partner, Regimbeau, European patent and trademark law firm

Seminar Management of Innovation | Wednesday February 16, 2005

Appropriation of a living agent by means of a patent is the subject of a debate which is characterised both by well-meaning intentions and by lack of knowledge of the subject. The debate reached its climax in France when the European Patent Office (EPO) granted Myriad, an American company, a monopoly for genetic diagnosis of breast cancer. Thanks to Jacques Warcoin, this patent was withdrawn in June 2004 by the EPO’s Opposition Division, to the satisfaction of those who saw in this retraction the refusal to allow the appropriation of living beings, objects or human genes. Jacques Warcoin shows that this struggle had already been lost a long time ago. He analyses the fundamental elements at stake in this affair which turned out to be economic : the patent system, invented in the middle of the nineteenth century to reward inventors, has been transformed into a formidable weapon which companies have used for their own economic strategies.

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