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    Renato Brandimarti said:

    “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This well known quote is sufficient, if honestly read, to argue against the idea that everything can be patented in a way to be “protected” from everyone else’s eye. In fact, the quote is a recursive statement, as every standing dwarf becomes the tip of the giant’s shoulders. As scientists, we should reject the idea that a patent can limit the knowledge instead of correctly aknowledge the autorship: even before being unacceptable, it is inconceivable. It is not a fortouitous thing that almost every journal requests the authors of the accepted manuscripts to make any material and reagents described in the papers freely available to the scientific community. Applying a similar idea of patent to a book would imply that none could read it and, maybe, get inspired.

    Beside these considerations, which seem so obvious to me to be on the verge of becoming trivial, I think that defining the concept of property (from which patents and copyrights are derived) is a challenging mission that we should face in a different way. To accomplish this task we cannot use obsolete tools absolutely inadequate to legally define something like a gene and, even more difficult, its function. In a completely different field and with less heavy implications, the digital community is facing similar problems. Open Source and Open Access are completely new concepts with extraordinary impact on our lives and on our society, and they descend from the possibility to share everything with no need for reproduction. Formalization of these concepts lead to new legal forms of licences, from copyleft to creative commons. And beyond these formalized rules, the possibility to share makes difficult to define property and, as a consequence, to trace individual contribution. No doubt, it is an Open (and intriguing) Problem, requiring a great effort to be studied and brought to a good solution.

    Do we think that life sciences “goods” can be blent in regular goods and managed with familiar and usual legal tools? I don’t think so. Furthermore, i believe that we are forced not only to strive toward finding new tools, but also to rethink and redefine our idea of property.

    Renato Brandimarti, PhD
    Dept. of Pharmacy and Biotechnology
    University of Bologna