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Patent Politics

Life Forms, Markets, and the Public Interest in the United States and Europe

Shobita Parthasarathy

Patent Politics

Shobita Parthasarathy

304 pages | 9 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2017
Cloth $25.00 ISBN: 9780226437859 Published February 2017
E-book $10.00 to $25.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226437996 Published February 2017
Over the past thirty years, the world’s patent systems have experienced pressure from civil society like never before. From farmers to patient advocates, new voices are arguing that patents impact public health, economic inequality, morality—and democracy. These challenges, to domains that we usually consider technical and legal, may seem surprising. But in Patent Politics, Shobita Parthasarathy argues that patent systems have always been deeply political and social.
To demonstrate this, Parthasarathy takes readers through a particularly fierce and prolonged set of controversies over patents on life forms linked to important advances in biology and agriculture and potentially life-saving medicines. Comparing battles over patents on animals, human embryonic stem cells, human genes, and plants in the United States and Europe, she shows how political culture, ideology, and history shape patent system politics. Clashes over whose voices and which values matter in the patent system, as well as what counts as knowledge and whose expertise is important, look quite different in these two places. And through these debates, the United States and Europe are developing very different approaches to patent and innovation governance. Not just the first comprehensive look at the controversies swirling around biotechnology patents, Patent Politics is also the first in-depth analysis of the political underpinnings and implications of modern patent systems, and provides a timely analysis of how we can reform these systems around the world to maximize the public interest.
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Chapter One: Defining the Public Interest in the US and European Patent Systems
Chapter Two: Confronting the Questions of Life-Form Patentability
Chapter Three: Commodification, Animal Dignity, and Patent-System Publics
Chapter Four: Forging New Patent Politics Through the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debates
Chapter Five: Human Genes, Plants, and the Distributive Implications of Patents
Appendix 1: Major Events Related to the US and European Life-Form Patent Controversies
Appendix 2: Methodological Note
Review Quotes
American Journal of Sociology
“The ability to present certain outcomes, relationships, processes, or arrangements as neutral, technical, universal, or inevitable manifests and maintains power in society. In opening the black box of science and patent politics, Parthasarathy does more than just highlight differences between two significant and seemingly similar regions of economic and political power in the world today. In showing that things are different between these two places, Parthasarathy shows that things do not have to be the way they are anywhere today. . . . Patent Politics clearly shows how representing science, technology, and law as apolitical is deeply political. As such, patent politics are everybody’s business to engage with and to decide upon.”
"[M]eticulously researched and very readable... a perfect starting point for anybody seeking to understand the modern history of patent systems in the United States and Europe, which differ even though they certainly did not evolve in glorious isolation from each other. It uncovers their political character and the underlying dynamics that lead to change and resistance to change. [Parthasarathy] is right to conclude that further harmonization efforts are likely to struggle due to distinctive and often quite different and hard-to-reconcile political cultures, and that innovation governance needs to be rethought in light of the fact that patent law is just one element of the regulatory regime. Moreover, the regulation of innovation needs to embrace public engagement concerning not just patents but technology, human values, and the public good."
"This is a brilliant, deeply researched book that gets to the heart of how and why the public has been shut out of ethical and political debates about the life sciences in the U.S., but not in Europe. Patents are treated as technical issues in the U.S., and as ethical and political issues in Europe, as a result of laws and long-term political cultures. The result: The U.S. patents far more life forms than in the EU, turning life into money by bypassing public input."
Bruce G. Carruthers, Northwestern University
“Patent offices play a crucial role in the development of innovative global industries like biotech, pharmaceuticals, and IT. Parthasarathy’s comparative analysis explores the puzzling and durable differences between the US and European patent systems. Meticulously researched and clearly written, this important book provides an insightful analysis that opens new questions about the limits of globalization and the continuing importance of political forces in shaping intellectual property.”
Daniel Kleinman, University of Wisconsin, Madison
“Patent Politics is well crafted, with sharp comparison, strong analysis, and sound data. Parthasarathy offers a timely study that spans several fields: science and technology studies, science and technology policy, comparative politics, and political sociology. Patent Politics will be widely read and cited by anyone with an interest in the past, present, or future of patents in the United States and Europe.”
Eva Hemmungs Wirtén, Linköping University
“Parthasarathy's comparative approach to looking at the United States and Europe is intriguing and makes a significant contribution to the current state of the art—showing how differences in legal, cultural, and political traditions pertain to policies in respect to the life sciences. She not only provides a detailed account of the controversies surrounding life form patenting, but also vividly shows how the troubled legal regime of intellectual property results from negotiation with a whole set of actors, networks, and texts that are seen as external to the law. Patent Politics is an important, timely, and impressive contribution to the field.”

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