Policy ForumPATENT LAW

Natural Substances and Patentable Inventions

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Science  30 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5624, pp. 1375-1376
DOI: 10.1126/science.1083367

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The current practice of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the courts of granting and upholding patents on discovered natural substances departs from traditional, constitutional principles of patent law. In this Policy Forum, the authors propose a test for the patentability of inventions deriving from naturally occurring, nonbiological substances such as elements, chemicals, minerals, and subatomic particles. They discuss how the proposed test would resolve the economic and ethical policy concerns regarding patents on natural substances that are not substantially modified.