Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Natural substances vs patentable inventions

Shares
A long-standing principle of patent law is that individuals cannot patent naturally-occurring phenomena such as elements, chemicals or minerals.

Yet, subtly and without fanfare, the prohibition on patenting products of nature has fallen into legal disuse. The US Patent and Trademark Office and federal courts now routinely issue patents on discovered natural substances if they are "isolated and purified" or otherwise (insubtantially) modified. Naturally-occurring DNA and protein molecules have, consequently, become the subject of thousands of patent applications.

In this article, Linda J Demaine and Aaron X Fellmeth describe the "Substantial Transformation Test", a method designed to distinguish products of nature from patentable inventions.

Link to Science article

Reference: Science 300, 1375 (2003)
Republish
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.