Public Values and Modern Biotechnology in the Dutch Patent System A multiple case-study of patents on Recombinant-DNA & PCR and CRISPR technologies in the field of green biotechnology.
Boomgaard, M.J. van den
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In this study I explored the dynamics of modern biotechnology and the Dutch patent system. The study evaluates how the patent system in the future stimulates biotechnological innovations that are in line with public values. In the recent decades modern biotechnology provided enormous breakthroughs in molecular genetics, with technologies such as Recombinant-DNA, PCR and gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR technology. Modern biotechnology is transforming the green biotechnology industry with constant innovations that can generate public benefits in food security, human health, industry and sustainability and largely influencing the Dutch sector. The societal benefits are promising and therefore these technologies are incentivised by governments through the Intellectual Property system. The patent system is studied due to the increasing importance of patents for this industry. Patents are shaped by the motivation of contributions to the public good. However, previous research identified concerns that signified that these contributions to society were not met. Therefore, this study evaluated these concerns and whether the patent system contributes sufficiently to society, by utilising the public value failure theory of Bozeman (2002). Based on the PVM tool (Bozeman, 2007) and legislation of the patent system, four criteria operationalised the socially desirable functioning of the patent system. The criteria include the effectiveness, efficiency, reliability and inclusiveness of the patent system. The qualitative abductive approach of this study consisted of two rounds of interviews and a document analysis, conducting a multiple-case study of Recombinant-DNA & PCR and CRISPR technologies. Findings indicate that the Dutch patent system for a large part stimulate biotechnological innovations that are in line with public values. However, current and future technologies in the breeding sector provide several challenges in ensuring wide access to patents on these innovations. In order to sustain innovation in the plant breeding sector, when gene-editing increasingly play a role, patents on plant innovations should maintained accessible to a large population of breeders to ensure biodiversity and inclusivity of the patent system. Recommendations of this study include active initiatives for large scale ethical debate, a search for more inclusive access to plant innovation patents including patent traits and methods to produce these, and lastly, spread of knowledge and awareness on the patent system.