Fictional characters and the world of cloning

A fictional character in a book about Ireland is a stone mason. In speaking about stone, he shows the passion of a true believer in a universal understanding about that which comprises the universe in all of its glory. The character stands before an indifferent crowd and tries to help them see the place in the world for even the stone:

As with ourselves, he said we don’t know where it came from. It must have belonged to the beginning of the world.

For those who can find a majesty in even the inanimate object, so much more so the passion for all which is spawned from creation that is alive and intelligent. Respect for life is at the core of those understandings among even the illiterate. So much more so is the understanding of the educated and enlightened.

Bio-engineering: A slope already slipped

On June 17, 1999, Washington Post Staff Writer Rick Weiss reported that: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has turned down a scientist’s controversial request for a patent on creatures that would be part animal and part human – bizarre life forms that no one has made before, but that might prove useful in medical experiments. The patent office ruled in part that (the) invention is too human to be patentable. By doing so, it opened the door to a series of legal challenges available to all patent applicants – a path that could lead to the Supreme Court. (The patent applicant) hopes his appeals will force a judicial and congressional reassessment of the nation’s 19-year-old policy of granting patents on life forms. That policy, based on a single court decision, has provided the foundation for today’s $13 billion biotechnology industry.

In particular, said John Barton, a patent specialist at the Stanford University School of Law, the ploy has forced the patent office to acknowledge the relatively thin legal ice upon which its policies on life patents rest. The ruling also reveals the agency’s apparent uncertainty about just how human a creature must be before it is no longer patentable, Barton and others said.

The patent office has argued that to grant patents on people would violate the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery. But neither the patent office nor Congress has ever defined “human.”

Philosophical questions on cloning raised by patent law

The United States and patents on life: The same article by Weiss raises the philosophical quandary that arises when any individual or enterprise seeks to re-create new life by patenting. By extension these concerns are already at play in a debate that began long before the popularization of cloning as a way to replicate pets for personal or commercial use became prescient.

According to Weiss, several patents have been allowed on animals containing human genes or organs. And just (that) week, scientists said they were creating live embryos by combining cow and human cells. The patent agency letter rejecting the above patent conceded in its letter of rejection that a five to four decision in 1980 allowing a patent on a microbe – the justices did not include humans on their list of non- patentable life forms.

However, the patent office’s deputy assistant commissioner for patent policy, said the agency “believes” that Congress did not intend to allow patents on humans or on creatures that are essentially human when it passed the National Patent Act in 1956. The agency, however, offers no basis for that belief, Coyne said.

Canada and patents on life: Canada’s, as of a ruling on Dec. 5, 2002, became the only industrialized country to prohibit patents on higher life forms. According to the Institute of Science in Society the test case was Harvard University’s 17-year quest for ownership of its genetically engineered “oncomouse”. Researchers inserted a cancer-promoting gene (oncogene) into fertilized mouse eggs, producing transgenic mice more susceptible to tumors, thus facilitating clinical work and faster experimental results for cancer research.

The oncomouse was patented in the US in 1988, and has patent protection in Australia, Japan and several European countries. The patents give Harvard exclusive rights to create the mice and charge licensing fees for their use. The “invention” is licensed to Du Pont, which sells the mice to research labs.


The recreating of life forms is an omnibus approach to respect life issues that find questions of patenting life little different from those of cloning life. defines cloning as the process of making a clone, a genetically identical copy…of an organism by replacing the nucleus of an unfertilized ovum with the nucleus of a body cell from the organism.

In so far as creating new life from combinations of organisms done through different bio-engineering processes encompasses the observation of the stone mason in Ireland, the issues raised by the U.S. and Canadian patent offices, and the philosophical questions that beg for ethical responses. It does not require patenting cloned organisms to determine that the questions raised by the discussion is critical. However, cloning pets as a portal to cloning humans is a door opened some time ago and involved neither pets nor humans.