Should China Provide Intellectual Property Protection for Genetically Modified Animals?

Geng, Ke | January 1, 2003

The advent of recombinant genetic engineering techniques has revolutionized biotechnology. The biomedicine and biotechnology industries have extensively employed these techniques to improve the quality of agricultural crops and livestock and to create genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”) in order to produce drugs. Since as much as twenty-five percent of the world’s intellectual property-related trade involves biotechnology, many countries have realized the importance of providing intellectual property protection for biotechnological technologies, including GMOs. In the past decade, China’s booming economy has helped make its biotechnological market the fastest growing market in the world. To stimulate innovation and attract private investment in its biotechnology industry, China has rapidly transformed its intellectual property laws to conform with western models in the last two decades. However, plants and animals are not patentable in China. While plant varieties enjoy sui generis system protection, animal varieties are not protected by any law. This poses a serious problem for biotechnology firms that have heavily invested in the research and development of genetically modified animals. This article focuses on whether China should provide intellectual property protection for new animal varieties, including genetically modified animals. Section II offers a brief introduction to the development of recombinant genetic engineering techniques. Section III discusses the benefits and risks of GMOs. The ethical issues of animal patenting are discussed in section IV. Sections V and VI present an overview of international and China’s intellectual property protection for GMOs, respectively. Section VII concludes with a discussion of why and how China should provide intellectual property protection for genetically engineered animals.