Team/CINVESTAV-IPN-UNAM MX/Ownership.htm



Intellectual Property Strategy for Synbio

Research in Mexico!

Stage 1: Intellectual Property vs. Open Source report

With the objective to provide a wide vision of this topic, we are trying to open a national discussion for the creation and adoption of a strategy for intellectual property and open source for the development of synthetic biology in Mexico. The first stage consists in define the status of this issue. We´re going to introduce some concepts related to open source and intellectual property.


Stage 1 Summary

Patents were created as a way to provide financial incentives for inventors to undertake research, by allowing them to exclude competitors from exploiting their invention for a specified period of time. There is the risk that it could hinder those conducting important research or providing needed services downstream, and can inhibit cumulative innovation (2).

Considerable historical evidence, including evidence from many important industries of the twentieth century, suggests that the transaction costs associated with developing broad patents on foundational research can slow growth in the industry (1). There is a real risk that patent thickets will hinder the ability to do research and commercialize applications in synbio.

The Biobrick foundation and many synbio leaders support the open source (OS) to ensure the advance of synbio. Nevertheless, there are many questions to solve in order to reach the ideal strategy, especially in iGEM and the Registry of Standard Biological Parts (RSPB). There are many problems in the implementation of open source, to be success, the OS strategy should incorporate a strong intellectual property structure that allow the open access and use to the protected parts, but also avoid any misuse of these parts.

Imagine that a foundational advance biobrick from the registry is not protected by any intellectual property modality; Many researchers have freely used this biobrick for the construction of useful devices; someone even used it for a commercial development and decided to patent the resultant device. One year earlier of this patent application, a giant corporation takes this idea and develops a tool based on it; they decide to patent this tool, what happen if the company decides to assert the researcher? Every aspect of this issue must to be perfectly clear to avoid that kind of problems Already we are beginning to see problematic foundational patents that could impede the potential of the technology (8). Some synbio leaders propose to use intellectual property rights to create a “commons” in the same way as software developers, by using the copyright and copyleft modalities of IP.

The Biobrick foundation has partially solved the Intellectual Property issue by implementing its Biobrick Public Agreement, which is a new legal instrument for sharing synthetic biological parts. The simplicity of the BPA should help the synbio community grow without the cost or complexity of navigating the patent system. Those who wish to continue to use the patent system and other intellectual property frameworks (outside of the sharing system established via the BPA) are free to do so (9) Synthetic biology is trying to make biology easier to engineer, by introducing some ideas of many areas of engineering to life sciences, the core proposal is the standardization of biological parts. Our proposal is to incorporate standardization to synbio IP issues.

Sometimes is better to patent a synbio invention, sometimes is better to give invention to the world for its free use, in other cases special strategies should be adopted. Application of BPA must be complemented by other standard procedures for each case. It is necessary to define what should be patented according to this. An interdisciplinary committee must be integrated to discuss this categorization and those standard procedures.

Check out the complete report here:

Intellectual Property vs. Open Source

1 Merges RP, Nelson RR (1990) On the complex economics of patent scope. Columbia Law Rev
2 World Health Organization (2005) Genetics, genomics and the patenting of DNA : review of potential implications for health in developing countries.
3 European group on ethics in science and new technologies to the European commission (2009) Ethics of synthetic biology European Union, 2010. ISBN 978-92-79-13829-4 doi: 10.2796/10789
4 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (2010) Symposium on Opportunities and Challenges in the Emerging Field of Synthetic Biology OECD, Royal Society 2010
5 Mexican Association for Synthetic Biology (2009) Strategic guidelines for synthetic biology industries in developing countries
6. Rai A, Boyle J (2007) Synthetic biology: Caught between property rights, the public domain, and the commons. PLoS Biol 5(3): e58. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050058


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