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The Rules of Re-engagement: The Use of Patent Proceedings to Influence the Regulation of Science

When it comes to public engagement in the regulation of new technologies, all too often, publics are left questioning the real value of their input (ie: they have no way of measuring the influence or efficacy of their contribution to the final regulatory content). Dissatisfaction with 'upstream' participation naturally results in stakeholders looking further 'downstream' for influence. In the biotechnology arena, patent proceedings represent a participatory tool for stakeholders who may have been left out of or who have failed to achieve their goals through 'upstream' mechanisms. This paper explores selected biotechnology patent cases to assess what values are given life 'downstream' through legal interpretation. In particular, it examines decisions of the European Patent Office over the last 15 years, contrasting the use of the morality provision between earlier and more recent decisions. What values (if any) are evident from this 'downstream' and goal-oriented re-engagement process (ie: to defeat another's commercial objective)? Have values shifted with respect to the use of the law and how it is applied?