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Legal Issues

Patenting Issues

Genetic material obtained from individuals is often used in developing patentable inventions. These patents are filed by the scientists who develop the materials and methods that utilize the genetic information. Cells obtained from a person with a rare disease, for example, might be used to develop tests to detect the disease as well as methods and materials for treatment. The patent rights are granted to the scientists who develop the tests, methods, and materials, rather than to the patient who was the source of the cells.

A patient might consider negotiating for an ownership interest in the cells. But very few patients are in a position to do so. They often are afraid that such negotiations would result in denial of treatment. Also, since it is illegal in the United States to sell organs and tissues, agreements involving ownership in such cases could be seen as falling afoul of the law.

Kamrin T. MacKnight


Lewis, Ricki. Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications, 4th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill,2001.

Internet Resource

Human Genome Project Information: Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues. U.S. Department of Energy. <http://www.ornl.gov/hgmis/elsi/elsi.html>.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 3Legal Issues - Ownership Of Tissues, Criminal Law, Patenting Issues