American Journal of Pharmacogenomics

, Volume 4, Issue 5, pp 277–292 | Cite as

Costs and Benefits of Genomics Patents

  • Jonathan D. PutnamEmail author
Current Opinion


Genomics patents are controversial on religious, ethical, legal, and economic grounds. An economic approach is desirable for valuing the patent system generally, and genomics patents in particular, in terms of its stated constitutional objective, which is to ‘promote progress’. Several types of criticisms and warnings have been issued regarding the suitability of genomics inventions for patent protection; here these are evaluated in the context of more general concerns about the efficacy of the patent system. As with the patent system more generally, it is difficult to specify an alternative mechanism for producing inventions that has attributes (such as decentralized resource allocation, speed of therapeutic discovery, and financing by beneficiaries) that are predictable enough to serve as a benchmark against which to judge the current regime, which is dominated by genomics patents. The current patent regime can be expected to produce commercializable therapies reasonably reliably, while many proposed alternatives hearken back to a regime that did not produce commercializable therapies with as great speed or variety. Therefore, the onus appears to lie on the critics to create a model with the desirable properties of the patent system, but with fewer of its acknowledged weaknesses, such as ‘monopoly’ pricing and ‘patent thickets’.


Intellectual Property Patent Protection Patent System Patented Invention Gene Patent 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Colleen Flood, Trudo Lemmens, and participants in the University of Toronto Faculty of Law’s Bridge Week on the Human Genome Project for advice in the preparation of this paper.

The work was supported by funds from the Centre for Innovation for Innovation Law and Policy, the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Crystal Reeves-Graham provided helpful research assistance. I remain responsible for the opinions and any errors.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Innovation Law and PolicyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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