In today's NYTimes, Michael Crichton (yes that Michael Crichton) has an interesting Op-Ed piece on how scientists have begun to patent the human genome under certain circumstances. The problem, as Crichton sees it, is that due to a misunderstanding between the U.S. Patent Office and the U.S. Supreme Court, and a couple years ago, began awarding patents to genes. As a result, certain medical firms have 'patented' the rights to certain genes in every human body.
While Crichton's writing isn't particularly scholarly, he does point out a variety of issues that can, and should be, explored. What are the implications of patents and intellectual property control in terms of medicine? What is a proper reward for research and what is restrictive in terms of health promotion and disease prevention? For that matter, how do patents differ from copyrights, in this case and in others?