Document Type



Nathan Burkan Memorial Competition Prize Paper (A. Kapczynski, I. Ayres, B. Kauffman) (Best paper(s) in the field of copyright)


The ethical debates on gene patenting and the highly prominent Myriad case all overlook a remarkable 21st-century scientific breakthrough. The cost of DNA sequencing a single human’s genome has dropped from $95.3 million to $4,905 over the last 14 years. As a result of this revolution, 21st-century geneticists suffer from an embarrassment of riches: there are too much DNA sequences available, but not enough annotations or explanations to fully understand them. Thus, the major challenge of 21st-century genetics is annotating and understanding genes’ functions and structures, rather than determining their DNA sequence. Unfortunately, the legal regime for genetic intellectual property has not reflected these striking technological changes. Genetic IP has always been and still is governed by patents, which continue to focus on protecting the tangible DNA sequences rather than the more valuable intangible information genes contain. This paper proposes that a genetic copyright regime would be more suitable for 21st-century genetic IP. A genetic copyright can be comprised of representations that describe a gene’s functions or structures – a genetic scènes à faire of stock characters commonly used by geneticists.

Date of Authorship for this Version