raised by workshop participants and from comparisons of the case studies. They might be useful for informing decisions about appropriate strategies for protecting intellectual property that constitutes important research tools.

  • Is this technology critical to researchers? Are there other ways to do the same thing?

  • Is private investment necessary to make the research tool more useful? Is the size of the potential market sufficient to warrant the amount of extra investment?

  • Does or might this research technology have alternative uses for which commercial markets exist, and would private investment be necessary to develop those markets?

  • Are multiple dissemination strategies feasible (such as different licensing terms and different fees)?

  • Where substantial further investment is necessary to develop the technology, will further development yield additional patentable inventions sufficient to motivate investment?

  • Is this invention likely to be only one of many pieces to a complex puzzle, each of which could be separately owned?

Those questions encapsulate themes raised by many of the speakers. Many participants spoke of the problem of uncertainty, which is likely to be a continuing problem in setting policies about proprietary decisions. To some degree, it seems that uncertainty is an inevitable byproduct of the recent advances in molecular biology. Molecular biology has already presented the patent system with new categories of patentable material, for which case law—which of necessity looks to the past for guidance—cannot always be expected to provide adequate guidance. One can expect advances in molecular biology to continue to pose new and unexpected challenges to our intellectual property traditions. As science continues to present new challenges, case law will inevitably lag behind the science. Because the useful applications of advances in molecular biology are so closely tied to basic research, it is particularly important to strike the right balance between the twin goals of fostering the growth of scientific knowledge and promoting private investment in the development of applications for new technology. In many cases, those goals can be encouraged by the same strategies; in others, the strategies might conflict. The balance is not likely to be achieved through any single policy and clearly requires the close and continued attention of people concerned with the science and application of molecular biology.



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