Research ArticleENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

Corporate control and global governance of marine genetic resources

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Science Advances  06 Jun 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 6, eaar5237
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar5237

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  • RE: Response to eLetter from Paul Oldham
    • Robert Blasiak, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
    • Other Contributors:
      • Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
      • Colette C.C. Wabnitz, University of British Columbia
      • Henrik Österblom, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

    We welcome Paul Oldham’s eLetter on the benefits and limitations of applying different methods to interrogate patent data. However, some of the comments suggest a misreading of our study. Below, we address four of these by highlighting: (1) why we focused on sequence count rather than number of patent applications, (2) why the comparison of marine species numbers with Oldham et al. (2013) is misleading, (3) why the level of commercial activity should create a sense of urgency among negotiators to resolve global governance gaps, and (4) why we explicitly dedicated much of our study to encouraging constructive dialogue between government and industry. We conclude by noting common ground, where we believe the eLetter has provided constructive suggestions for valuable future research.

    (1) A focus on sequences rather than patent applications
    Focusing on patent sequences allows the identification of marine species that are the source of gene sequences in patent applications. This is important for two reasons. First, a single patent application can include sequences from both marine and terrestrial species. In such cases, an analysis aimed specifically at determining commercial interest in marine genetic resources based on patent applications would yield skewed results, as patent applications dealing predominantly with terrestrial sequences would be mixed together with those dealing predominantly or exclusively with marine sequences. Second, identifying species allo...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Problems with Corporate control and global governance of marine genetic resources
    • Paul Oldham, Senior Visiting Research Fellow, United Nations University, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability

    The article Corporate control and global governance of marine genetic resources suffers from a number of problems that readers of this journal should be aware of.

    The article is concerned with highlighting corporate control of marine genetic resources and governance. However, the analysis is based exclusively on patent applications from the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The PCT serves as a form of clearing house through which applicants can submit applications in up to 152 Contracting States. Those applications are examined at the national/regional level and may become patent grants where they meet the examination requirements. The authors appear to recognize that the PCT only addresses patent applications in Methods and Materials but choose to use the term patents or registered patents in the main body of the text. Thus, Figure 2 is described as the “Percentage of patents with international protection associated with MGRs…”. This gives the impression that they are granted patents. This matters because patent applications do not establish control. Patent applications provide an indicator of demand for patent rights. In the absence of information on patent grants it is not possible to accurately assess the extent to which one or more applicants have achieved actual control over marine genetic resources.

    A second problem arises from an exclusive focus on counting the number of sequences in patent applications. In the case of marine genetic resources, this...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.

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