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U.S. makes embryo patenting ban permanent

WASHINGTON (BP) — The United States now has a permanent ban on issuing patents on human embryos.

President Obama signed the prohibition into law Sept. 16 as part of a patent reform measure titled the America Invents Act. The pro-life language in the bill restricts the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from issuing a patent on a “human organism.”

The new law makes permanent a ban on embryo patenting that has been approved each year since 2004 as part of the annual spending bill for the Commerce, Justice and State departments. The original bill, sponsored by former Rep. Dave Weldon, R.-Fla., met strong opposition at the time from the biotechnology industry, which sought the ability to patent human beings created by cloning or other methods.

Pro-life advocates who had backed inclusion of the ban in the patent reform measure applauded the newly enacted prohibition.

“This law recognizes that human life is not a commodity, and that a member of the human family can never be regarded as a mere invention, or as ‘intellectual property,'” said Douglas Johnson, the National Right to Life Committee’s legislative director, in a written release.

Richard Doerflinger, pro-life specialist for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a written statement, “Unethical researchers and biotechnology companies are willing not only to create and destroy embryonic human beings for research purposes, but even to patent these fellow humans so they can license, market, buy, and sell them as mere commodities. By prohibiting patents on human organisms, Congress has helped prevent such gross abuses and has taken some of the profit motive out of the drive for human cloning.”

A patent is a government-granted property right that provides an inventor with sole control of the manufacture and use of his invention for a specific amount of time.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief of Baptist Press.

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