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Genomic patenting and the utility requirement

This paper analyses the ways in which genomic knowledge is portrayed as useful knowledge in gene patenting in order to fulfil the 'utility'/'industrial applicability' requirement for patentability. It gives examples of utility claims in gene patents and asks whether genomics (as opposed to genetics) changes our ideas about what is useful and what can be patented. It puts forward a provisional classification of different types of utility and argues that merely identifying the physiological function of a gene diverges radically from our commonsense understanding of what it is for an invention to be useful. Furthermore, social, political and ethical issues inevitably arise when discussing the utility requirement, because an invention cannot be useful in isolation from a social context.