Python Is Really Middleware

Jeff Shannon jeff at
Mon Aug 6 23:41:56 CEST 2001

Bengt Richter wrote:

> On Mon, 6 Aug 2001 18:00:49 +0200, "Alex Martelli" <aleaxit at> wrote:
> [...]
> >
> >Absolutely.  However, I do see BIG ethical questions with a law
> >that allows somebody, anybody, to *patent* genes I may have
> >in my body -- I don't really care about the economic implications
> >of that, there HAS to be somewhere one draws a line.
> >
> IMO the result of reverse engineering God's prior art should not
> qualify for patents. Nor should climbing a mountain give you
> ownership of it, nor exclusive rights to the path that
> any competent mountain climber would discover.
> I think there is plenty of room for real inventions.

Well, *in theory*, gene patents are supposed to be *only* for specific practical
uses of specific genes.  This means, for instance, that if company A gets a
patent on the use of gene X to produce protein X(1), and later company B uses
gene X to produce protein X(2), then company B is *not* in violation of A's
patent.  Gene patents are also supposed to be only for synthetic, artificial uses
of a gene--if you are born carrying a specific gene that company A owns a patent
on, they cannot accuse you of being in violation of their patent, or demand
licensing, or any such.  This is a paraphrase from an interview I read recently,
with someone from the US Patent Office--I *believe* that I read it in the latest
Scientific American, but I could be wrong.  And of course, I do feel it necessary
to point out that this is *theory*, and that practice may vary.  (For example,
the limiting of a gene patent to apply to only one product of the gene, is a
relatively recent restriction.)

So, the claim is that this encourages pharmaceutical companies to pursue gene
therapy, without interfering with natural, biological usage of a gene.  How
realistic this claim is, is of course open to interpretation.  It *is* clear that
many major corporations are "stockpiling" patents, simply to hope to be able to
use them as leverage later, and that this practice is particularly bad in genetic
research, so I personally am rather skeptical of the whole arrangement--but at
least it's not *quite* as bad as it sounds at first blush.

Not that this has anything to do with Python.  :)

Jeff Shannon
Credit International

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