Engineering Responsibility Lecture Nr. 2 on May 21 | Patent Politics: Thinking Differently about Regulating Biotechnology in the United States and Europe

Professor Shobita Parthasarathy (University of Michigan)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 7:00 – 8:30pm
at Vorhoelzer Forum, TU Munich, Arcisstr. 21, Munich

The world’s patent systems are experiencing pressure from civil society like never before. As citizens express concern about the ethical and socioeconomic implications of emerging science and technology, they are also arguing that patents impact public health, economic inequality, morality—and democracy. These challenges to patent systems–which we usually consider narrowly technical and legal–may seem surprising. But these domains, I argue, have always been deeply political and social. Comparing over thirty years of controversy related to life form patents in the United States and Europe, I demonstrate how the two places approach patent and innovation governance quite differently. The United States and Europe think differently about the patent system’s approach to the public public interest, whose voices and which values matter in the patent system, and even what counts as knowledge and whose expertise is important. I consider the consequences of these differences for the governance of new biotechnologies, particularly CRISPR/Cas9, and consider the role of patent system in regulating the moral and socioeconomic dimensions of innovation.

Shobita Parthasarathy is Professor of Public Policy and Women’s Studies, and Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, at University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the governance of emerging science and technology in comparative perspective. She is interested in how technological innovation, and innovation systems, can better achieve public interest and social justice goals, as well as in the politics of knowledge and expertise in science and technology policy. She has done research in the United States and Europe, and her current research focuses on India. She is the author of numerous articles and two books: Patent Politics: Life Forms, Markets, and the Public Interest in the United States and Europe (University of Chicago Press, 2017) and Building Genetic Medicine: Breast Cancer, Technology, and the Comparative Politics of Health Care (MIT Press, 2007). Patent Politics received the 2018 Robert K. Merton Award from the Science, Knowledge, and Technology section of the American Sociological Association, for an outstanding book on science, knowledge, or technology. Findings from Building Genetic Medicine influenced the 2013 US Supreme Court decision prohibiting patents on isolated human genes. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Chicago and Masters and PhD degrees in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University.

Organized by the Engineering Responsibility Lab at the Munich Center for Technology in Society, Technical University of Munich. The lecture will be followed by an informal reception for further exchange with drinks and snacks.

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