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patents, synthetic biology, public domain


Synthetic biology, which operates at the intersection of biotechnology and information technology, has the potential to raise, in a particularly acute manner, the intellectual property problems that exist in both fields. A preliminary patent landscape reveals problematic foundational patents that could, if licensed and enforced inappropriately, impede the potential of the technology. The landscape also reveals a proliferation of patents on basic synthetic biology "parts" that could create transaction cost heavy patent thickets. Both foundational patents and patent thickets are likely to be particularly problematic to the extent they read on standards that synthetic biologists would like to establish. Synthetic biology also illustrates a potentially symbiotic relationship between open and proprietary innovation models. For example, if and when synthetic biology "parts" begin be disseminated as openly pure information, such dissemination will likely increase demand for various proprietary DNA synthesis platforms.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Patents, Synthetic biology, Public domain