The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Who will own the trademark to our DNA?

Public and private researchers are now rushing to complete a genetic map of human beings.

On the one hand is the publicly funded Human Genome Project, which has worked for years to map the 23 pairs of human chromosomes and code the body's 80,000 genes. Its findings are available to researchers worldwide.

On the other hand there are private companies racing to discover the information first and to file patents. For example, Celera Genomics applied for provisional patents on 10,000 genes, USA Today reports.

"We ought not be patenting knowledge that we have about DNA sequences as they occur in nature," says Ted Peters, a theologian at Pacific Lutheran Seminary, Berkeley, Calif., an ethics expert on the Human Genome Project.

In seeking protection of data — as opposed to innovations derived from data — the applications push patent law into new areas, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has yet to rule on them. "I just hope the [trademark office] rejects them all," Peters says.


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February issue


Embracing diversity