SOL Lawyer Magazine_Fall 2021

& Q WHY ARE YOU DRAWN TO INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (IP) LAW? Intellectual property is endlessly fascinating, first because it covers the most interesting and important technologies and creative forms of our day: genetic engineering, software and artificial intelligence, creative content in all forms. As Mark Getty, the head of the stock- photo company Getty Images, said: “Intellectual property is the oil the dynamic economic force of the 21st century.” Any lawyer advising businesses today needs to know a little about IP – about trademarks at the very least. The subject is also intellectually engaging and challenging because you can’t just see naturally the boundaries of a


explicitly appear in the global claims for preserving access to affordable medicines (most recently, COVID vaccines) in the face of IP rights that can drive up the cost of those medicines. Social justice claims also explicitly arise when corporations use the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples, or the

Institute at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge University, another institute interested in the societal implications of Catholic thought. The book came out of that conference. WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT TO PUBLISH THE BOOK? We think the book is a unique resource for legal, policy and religious actors, in several ways. First, it touches on a range of moral-social issues about gene patents: At what point are you patenting naturally occurring things? What about patenting morally troublesome manipulations of genes? At what point (if any) do exclusive IP rights harm access to medicines, like COVID-19 vaccines, in developing nations—or at what point do patents on seeds or crops wrongly achieve too much control over farmers’ practices? How exactly should we provide Indigenous communities fair returns on use of their traditional knowledge? Second, the book brings close, nuanced discussion of both legal and religious concepts to this subject. Finally, the book’s contributors come from both the U.S. and Europe; and Europe has some different rules about morality in patent law that are quite interesting. IN THE BOOK, YOU SAY, “FOR RELIGIOUS THOUGHT TO CONTRIBUTE EFFECTIVELY, IT MUST BE MORE INFORMED AND SOPHISTICATED THAN IT HAS BEEN... .” HOW SO? Back in 1995, a group of almost 200 religious leaders launched a campaign against any kind of gene patents on the ground

A genetic materials from plants in their locations, to help develop patentable medicines, agricultural products, and so forth. The claim there is that corporations should disclose such uses and provide fair compensation to such groups, who have often been exploited by developed nations in the past. HOW DID YOU COME TO BE INVOLVED IN EDITING THE BOOK “PATENTS ON LIFE: RELIGIOUS, MORAL, AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ASPECTS OF BIOTECHNOLOGY AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY” (2020)? I’ve been interested in the overlap of ethical concepts and IP for a while. If morality and social justice matter to IP, then so does religion, because in much of the world religion shapes society’s conception of justice. For example, in Muslim nations, patent law could help advance innovation, but it likely won’t take deep root unless it’s apparent how it’s consistent with justice as Islamic thought understands it. We’ve had roundtables and symposia at St. Thomas on these issues since 2009; we’ve helped lead exploration of the field. Then came the chance to do a trans-Atlantic conference co-

piece of intellectual property (an invention, a creative expression) the way you can see the shape of a bicycle (personal property) or the fence around land (real property). Because IP’s boundaries are less obvious, they’re constantly affected by considerations like how to ensure IP advances knowledge and respects human dignity. Those issues are inherent in the field, even if we often think of it as technical. WHAT ROLE DO MORALITY, ETHICS AND RELIGION PLAY WITHIN IP LAW? We tend to deny that morality plays a role in what’s protected by patents or other IP. But morality is right below the surface. When there’s a generic version of a drug under patent, or file-sharing of copyrighted music, the IP holders say “Theft!” They invoke morality. And morality and social justice

sponsored by the Murphy Institute at St. Thomas and the Von Hugel

Fall 2021 Page 19

Powered by