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The Intellectual Commons and Property in Synthetic Biology

  • Kenneth A. Oye
  • Rachel Wellhausen
Chapter

Abstract

Is the development of synthetic biology threatened by sharing and ownership issues? What measures are synthetic biologists taking to address intellectual property and commons issues that may threaten development of the field? Part I presents a conceptual framework for the analysis of ownership and sharing in emerging technologies, organized around two dimensions – a private ownership vs commons axis and a clarity vs ambiguity axis. It then uses the framework to assess the fit between conventions governing intellectual property and elements of synthetic biology. Part II describes internal positions on ownership and sharing within the community of synthetic biologists, highlighting areas of agreement on common ownership of registries of parts for basic research and education, standards for performance and interoperability, and design and testing methods; and agreement on private ownership of designs of devices ripe for commercialization. Part II also discusses the varied views of synthetic biologists on precisely where to draw the line on public vs private ownership of biological parts and design principles. The conclusions examine domestic and international forces that may shape the evolution of formal legal conventions and informal practices in synthetic biology.

Keywords

Intellectual Property Synthetic Biology Private Ownership Compulsory License Biological Part 
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.

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge with gratitude members of the MIT Program on Emerging Technologies working group on intellectual commons and property, including Hanna Breetz, Lawrence McCray, Scott Mohr, Matthew Silver Gautam Mukunda, Neelima Yeddanapudi and Larry McCray; Arti Rai and James Boyle of Duke University Law School; participants at SB2.0, SB3.0 and SB4.0 including Rick Johnson of Arnold and Porter LLP, Stephen Maurer and Paul Rabinow of the University of California, Anne Marie Mazza of the National Research Council, Clara Sattler of Yale University Law School and the Max-Planck-Institut für Geistiges Eigentum; and participants in the 2007 Atlanta Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation Policy. Finally, the auth ors owe a special debt to members of the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC) who are creating the objects of sharing and ownership that this paper examines, including Adam Arkin, George Church, Drew Endy, Jay Keasling, Jason Kelly, Natalie Kuldell, Tom Knight, Kristala Prather, Randy Rettberg, and Reshma Shetty. This work was supported by the NSF Integrated Graduate Education Research and Traineeship Program and NSF SynBERC. All errors and omissions are our own. This work has some rights reserved under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth A. Oye
    • 1
  • Rachel Wellhausen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political Science and Engineering Systems DivisionMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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