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Who Owns You?: The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes

ISBN: 978-1-4443-6065-3
200 pages
September 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Who Owns You?: The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes (1444360655) cover image


Who Owns You? is a comprehensive exploration of the numerous philosophical and legal problems of gene patenting.
  • Provides the first comprehensive book-length treatment of this subject
  • Develops arguments regarding moral realism, and provides a method of judgment that attempts to be ideologically neutral
  • Calls for public attention and policy changes to end the practice of gene patenting
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction 1

1 Individual and Collective Rights in Genomic Data: Preliminary Issues 20

2 Ethics and Ontology: A Brief Discourse on Method 40

3 The Science: Genes and Phenotypes 49

4 DNA, Species, Individuals, and Persons 66

5 Legal Dimensions in Gene Ownership 83

6 Are Genes Intellectual Property? 101

7 DNA and The Commons 119

8 Pragmatic Considerations of Gene Ownership 137

9 So, Who Owns You?: Some Conclusions about Genes, Property, and Personhood 155

Notes 171

Index 181

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Author Information

David Koepsell is an author, philosopher, and attorney whose recent research focuses on the nexus of science, technology, ethics, and public policy. He is Assistant Professor, Philosophy Section, Faculty of Technology, Policy, and Management at the Technology University of Delft, in The Netherlands, andSenior Fellow, 3TU Centre for Ethics and Technology, The Netherlands. He is also the author of The Ontology of Cyberspace: Philosophy, Law, and the Future of Intellectual Property, as well as numerous scholarly articles on law, philosophy, science, and ethics.
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The Wiley Advantage

  • Provides the first comprehensive book-length treatment covering the philosophical and legal problems of gene patenting
  • Develops arguments regarding moral realism, and provides a method of judgment that attempts to be ideologically neutral
  • Calls for public attention and policy changes to end the practice of gene patenting
See More


"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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