Exploring the bioethical implications posed by patents - and how they are used - on technologies related to the human body.
Patents are a type of intellectual property right which give the rightsholder(s), the right to stop others using the patented technology for the duration of the patent – this is usually 20 years. Currently, under the European patent system, the human body itself is not patentable. However, technologies that relate to the human body are patentable: for example, patents are available on technologies that treat the body such as medicines or elements of a vaccine; on isolated elements of the body including, isolated human genes which are patentable in Europe, and on elements of technologies such as medical devices that can be integrated with the body. Patents over such technologies can pose significant bioethical implications, as the extent to which such technologies are patented, and if patented, how such patent rights are used, can potentially affect how we can treat, use and modify our human bodies.
PatentsinHumans is a five-year interdisciplinary project funded by a European Research Council (ERC) Starting grant. The project commenced on 1st November 2022 and is led by Professor Aisling McMahon, School of Law and Criminology, Maynooth University. This project aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of the bioethical issues posed by patents and how they are used over technologies related to the human body, and to interrogate to what extent such bioethical issues are considered, if at all, within European patent decision-making for these technologies. Ultimately, it aims to reimagine European patent decision-making to further embed bioethical considerations in the patent decision-making systems for such technologies.
You can find out more about this project, by watching this short video here.
ALL Institute Members involved in the Project:
Funded by the European Union (ERC, PatentsInHumans, Project No. 101042147). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.