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Who Owns You?: The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes (Blackwell Public Philosophy Series) Paperback – 13 Feb 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (13 Feb. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405187301
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405187305
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,579,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"This book is a useful exposition of the difficulties that patents on human genes give rise to. Its focus on philosophical considerations adds depth to the debate, and it takes a novel perspective ... A book that proposes that the model should be abolished should promote useful debate in the field." (Journal of Biosocial Science, 2011)

"This is an excellent introductory book to the main topics and concepts related to gene patents. Moreover, not only it is a (well written and) comprehensive piece of writing, but also, it has already had an impact within the academia (see, for instance, the many times that it has been reviewed) probably, because of the relevance of, and the accuracy by which the research topic is addressed, and, also probably, because of its strong (provocative and) normative tone and content." (Asian Biotechnology & Development Review, 1 March 2011)

"Who owns you is lucidly written and reads as a 101 gene patenting. It is a book suitable for all who wish to understand gene patenting, and obtain a fresh perspective on associated ethical and legal matters". (Ethical Perspectives, 1 March 2010)

"Koepsell′s timely book is highly recommended for all reading levels." (CHOICE, December 2009)"The writing of Koepsell is expertly critical and thoughtfully opinionated. The vast array of intellectually provocative questions raised directly, or indirectly, by the discerning commentary of Koepsell is a great strength of the book. The book′s edifying substance is highly relevant to universities and corporations, importantly including insurance, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. The rich wealth of information mined by Koepsell′s intellectual toil likewise should be of greatly appealing interest to many professionals, including: geneticists, biologists, biomedical scientists, intellectual property scholars, patent public interest and healthcare lawyers, judges, legislators, bioethicists, genetic counselors, and health policy makers." (Metapsychology, April 2010)

"Koepsell makes an extensive argument that gene patents should be recognized as a social justice and human liberty issue ... .Who Owns You provides a real philosophical foundation to anyone interested in the debate." (yalepatents.org, January 2010)

"Who Owns You? is the first long–form, comprehensive treatment of the implications of gene patenting. As such, it deserves much credit for bringing the debate into the public eye, though it′s no template for policy change in itself. Perhaps most important is its application of philosophical analysis to bio–policy, an underutilized approach critical to scientific advancement. Koepsell′s book serves as a worthy starting point for anyone interested in interconnecting genetics, property law, and philosophy." (Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, December 2009)


"We live in a century when quandaries that seemed more appropriate for science fiction will become real. I suspect, for example, that many people would be outraged to find out that large parts of their genome the genetic code that largely defines the distinct features of their own humanity are patented, and therefore "owned" by others. David Koepsell here raises a set of fascinating questions that all of us, and policy makers in particular, should ponder as science is slowly redefining what it means to human."
Lawrence Krauss, Arizona State University

"A lucid and compelling deconstruction of current practice in the patenting of human genes, exposing inherent contradictions in the process and offering practical ways to resolve them."
John Sulston, The University of Manchester, Nobel Prize Laureate

"Who Owns You? Is an authoritative, well–argued and clear discussion of a topical, serious problem. The author raises a number of tough philosophical, legal and political questions, starting with the possible infringement on the most basic of all rights, that of owning oneself. I know of no comparable work on the question of DNA property rights. Who Owns You? is bound to become obligatory reading on this thorniest of issues."
Mario Bunge, McGill University

"Via reflective consideration of secondary sources, attorney and philosopher Koepsell explores economic, ethical, legal, and scientific questions raised by the patenting of one–fifth of the human genome.... Koepsell′s emphasis on the demonstration of both an innovation and a commercial use ultimately may prove central to future jurisprudence in cases involving these patents. Koepsell′s timely book is highly recommended for all reading levels."
C. H. Blake, James Madison University

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christian Jongeneel on 4 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
Twenty percent of the human genome is now patented. This means, for instance, that one cannot research a new medicine for Canavan's disease, a deadly neurological disorder, without acquiring a licence from the patent holder of the gene that causes the disease. Such gene patents are issued in the USA, but even as they are illegal elsewhere, they can often be enforced through patent treaties.

This is wrong both ethically and juridically, argues David Koepsell, who is an assistant professor at Delft University of Technology. Genes are a part of nature and should thus be regarded as a commons, an inalienable common possession of mankind. Governments may issue rules for their use, as with airwaves, but genes cannot become anybody's property. Patenting a gene - which is nothing more or less than a part of a dna-molecule - is just as ridiculous as patenting a water molecule.

In a compelling way mr. Koepsell makes his statement that the law should be changed. He provides introductions to genetics and law that are easily accessible to the layman. The subject is important enough for a broad audience to take note of.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
thoughtfully picks apart a fascinating subject 18 Jun. 2009
By modbom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Wow. This is a fascinating topic with a lot of complex issues of science, philosophy and law. Who Owns You digs deep in all of these places. The author skips nothing on this methodical, philosophical trip. I found it a to be a great primer on the nuts and bolts behind the science of genomics. It also pieces apart a thicket of assumptions around our ideas of identity, personhood, ownership and yes property rights (copyrights, patents etc). Even if you find yourself differing with the author on some of his conclusions your thinking on the subject will be an order of magnitude more precise and informed after reading this.
His writing style is very friendly and readable. In the best tradition of science writing it embraces complexity with aplomb. The details and research really made the book, and it's arguments, come alive for me. It's rare that such an erudite argument is so fun to read.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Patently Obvious - Koepsell hits the nail right on the head 5 Oct. 2009
By Luigi Palombi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For such a complex subject this book is easy to follow. The issues are clearly explained and the arguments succinctly made. Patents are about inventions. The bedrock principle of any patent system is that natural phenomena are not patentable. They belong to no one. They are part of the public domain. They are to be shared by humanity for humanity. We all know that. True it may be that patents are granted to inventors for making their ingenious inventions known and available to the world and that is a social good that deserves a social reward, but the equilibrium between that good and that reward has been disrupted. At least 20% of the human genome is now subject to US patents. How has this happened? What does this mean at a practical everyday level? And what has to be done to stop this injustice? These are the questions which this book poses and explores. There is more to this book than academic gymnastics. It's actually really important for all of us to understand how the patent bureaucracy has undermined the patent system and what this means to all of us.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Who Owns You? by David Koepsell: Fascinating, Erudite, Compelling: a Must-read on the Topic 8 Dec. 2009
By C. A. Lajos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Who owns you?" According to Koepsell (Assistant Professor, Philosophy Section, Faculty of Technology, Policy, and Management, Technology University of Netherlands, Delft; Senior Fellow, 3TU Centre for Ethics and Technology, The Netherlands; Ph.D, Philosophy, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1997; J.D., SUNY at Buffalo School of Law, 1995; B.A, Political Science/English, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1990; author of several books including The Ontology of Cyberspace as well as scholarly articles; [...]), an author, attorney, philosopher, and educator, whose research has focused on the nexus of science, technology, ethics, and public policy, you may be surprised and alarmed to learn that biotechnology companies, universities, and other research institutions now own the exclusive rights to many parts of you. As the aforementioned entities rush to patent the human genes comprising the human genome--the genetic code that largely defines the distinct features of humans, of which one-fifth is fully patented-- gene patenting threatens to infringe upon the rights of individuals and hinder scientific and technological progress. It also violates international agreements and is contrary to historical and legal norms. In this noteworthy publication, the author provides the first, nearly comprehensive study of the practices and implications of gene patenting. Koepsell maintains that gene patenting is harmful and needs to be reexamined. Using scientific findings, philosophical conclusions, and ethical determinations based upon his examination of the ontology of genes, the author advocates immediate legal reform. Among other solutions, he argues in favor of partly revoking intellectual property laws in order to establish the naturally-occurring, human genome as a "commons by necessity" that will not be patentable by companies, universities, or other research institutions. Divided into nine chapters, covering the science of genes, their ontology, the legal dimensions of gene ownership, intellectual property laws, pragmatic considerations, and more, this accessible, expertly-argued, insightful, nicely-presented, sufficiently-documented, interdisciplinary study on the practices and implications of gene patenting will interest general readers as well as students, scholars, and professionals. It will serve as a significant resource for further understanding, knowledge, and research. This book belongs in many large, public, academic, and law library book collections. Highly recommended.
Clear argument for not patenting genes 7 Aug. 2010
By Richard C. Koepsell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Koepsell makes a clear case for why the Patent Office erred in allowing patents on genes or parts of genes. If you want to understand the issue, this is a philosophical/legal argument that a layman can understand. An important issue of our times which needs to be corrected.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Patently Obvious, Right? 10 Jan. 2010
By R. Harrington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a rare book. It stakes out its territory right at the inflection point where past turns in to future, and where all the debates and arguments must be held about directions for our human development. It is, finally, political, radical and even revolutionary, as well as being a scholarly work of lucid philosophy and well argued law.

Who Owns You lays out a schematic for those debates which we as informed citizens must engage or suffer a return to serfdom; commoners without a commons. It points out specific transgressions already made in a direction that is or soon will be toxic for our collective humanity beyond the castle walls of corporate empire.

This is a very important book. It defines our boundaries. It explores our limits; not the limits of knowledge or consciousness, but as social animals, trying to get along without suffering ownership as something less than human.

"Territory" is what "letters patent" from the crown once granted proprietorship over. Now that all real property has pretty much been spoken for, what is contested are discoveries - more properly intentional inventions - of things and processes which never before existed.

Dr. Koepsell takes care to distinguish among aesthetic and utilitarian production - copyright and patent - and tokens vs. forms as patentable or copyrightable human creation. With stunning clarity, the history and usage of important terms are set out, such that natural law can be distinguished from technological processes and ideas from their expression. Production which can both be "enclosed" and distinguished from common sense is or may be properly patentable. Discoveries of that which cannot be enclosed nor attributable to intentional expression are excluded from private ownership, and must be protected for common use.

The case is made with exquisite precision that it has been a mistake, both ethically and legally, to allow the patenting of gene sequences. Furthermore, the process to isolate specific genetic anomalies may constitute a kind of expropriation of what properly belongs to the individual from whose tissues these patterns have been isolated. A case is made that there may be cause to expand legal definitions for privacy, ownership, and the commons to accommodate the advancements in basic science which have made gene sequencing possible. This case is supported not only ethically, legally, and philosophically, but also with regard to its practical impact on scientific advancement and economic stimulus.

If one did not know already that these are critical matters of more than specialized interest, one quickly discovers that truth in reading this compact book. Open Source, public licensing, funding for basic research, and the differences between scientific and technological advancement are all touched. It is surprisingly difficult on ones own to piece together an understanding of the background for approaching these difficult issues. This work does all that for the reader and more.

It really does matter. That is the main import of Who Owns You . In that sense, this might be an almost revolutionary manifesto, exposing some dangers to status quo, in the same powerful way as does, for one example, Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine . They may not know just what they do (or they may), but we must.

Ironically, the "territory" staked out by this book is not just at land's end, but conceptually at the end of what might distinguish basic science from technological contrivances based on that science. Arguably, a gene sequence is so difficult to apprehend - so dependent on complex processes and understandings - that to patent the particular sequence identified is tantamount to and the same thing as patenting the process which has led to its identification. Such that finding the sequence through a different set of steps would amount to finding a different gene sequence, whose "usage" could only be provably identical if the sequences were useful in precisely the same way. This would amount to proprietorship of unmapped territories whose butting up against one another had yet to be established; whose overlapping grants had yet to be trampled.

Dr. Koepsell assumes - he must assume - that the gene is a unitary object, and that granting of overlapping patents is both inevitable and absurd. That by granting patents to gene sequences, one is granting patents to something that would always be discovered as the same entity, regardless of path or process taken. That patenting genes is more akin to patenting blue eyes than to a process to make eyes blue. And absurd for that.

A careful reader must agree. This reader takes hope that the straw dog implicit in the argument - that technological advances will ultimately give humans the ability to choose their destiny; design their genes, for example - that this straw dog will go up in flames. The implicit argument is that it is for this very reason that we must be concerned about "who owns you" as if there were a perpetual battle between freedom and tyranny. There might be. I hold out for surprises which will bury both beneath the still overwhelming power of "nature" to keep our humanness in check. We will not engineer our way out of evolution, though the attempt may yet destroy any chance for life as life at the level of the human.

That, finally, is why this book is so important. It argues for life. Not mawkishly, as religionists do. But scientifically, as an argument to keep surprise itself from being enclosed and owned.
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