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Notable Books

New edited volume from Cambridge University Press: Patents on Life

Patents on Life: Religious, Moral, and Social Justice Aspects of Biotechnology and Intellectual Property
New from Cambridge University Press

Edited by:
Thomas C. Berg (University of St Thomas, Minnesota)
Roman Cholij (St Edmund’s College, Cambridge)
Simon Ravenscroft (Magdalene College, Cambridge)

This volume brings together a unique collection of legal, religious, ethical, and political perspectives to bear on debates concerning biotechnology patents, or ‘patents on life’. The ever-increasing importance of biotechnologies has generated continual questions about how intellectual property law should treat such technologies, especially those raising ethical or social-justice concerns. Even after many years and court decisions, important contested issues remain concerning ownership of and rewards from biotechnology – from human genetic material to genetically engineered plants – and regarding the scope of moral or social-justice limitations on patents or licensing practices. This book explores a range of related issues, including questions concerning morality and patentability, biotechnology and human dignity, and what constitute fair rewards from genetic resources. It features high-level international, interfaith, and cross-disciplinary contributions from experts in law, religion, and ethics, including academics and practitioners, placing religious and secular perspectives into dialogue to examine the full implications of patenting life.

The book is the result of a four-year collaborative project between the Von Hügel Institute for Critical Catholic Inquiry at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, and the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy at the University of St Thomas, Minnesota.


Patents on Life offers a rigorous and discerning consideration of issues at the intersection of biotechnology, ethics, and social justice. A much needed faith- centered contribution to the debate over ethical and moral norms at stake in the governance of biotech patents; it is a must read.” — Ruth Okediji, Jeremiah Smith, Jr., Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

“The contribution of this book is to bring hitherto neglected religious perspectives into the debates about the ethical issues raised by patents on life. The essays convincingly argue that patents on life require evaluation under criteria of morality and social justice and religious thought can contribute to such an analysis.” — Audrey Chapman, Healey Professor of Medical Ethics and Humanities, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

“This book is a comprehensive and fascinating conversation between an impressive line-up of scholars representing many different academic backgrounds, but also a number of faith communities, on the topic of intellectual property. As such it is an exceptional, thorough and informative study on the ethical challenges of biotechnological patents.” — Dr Calum MacKellar, Director of Research, Scottish Council on Human Bioethics

Institutional access to the full text is available via Cambridge Core. The print book will be available to buy shortly from the publisher in the UK here, and in the US here, as well as through other, usual booksellers.

The closing chapter is also available on the Social Sciences Research Network.



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