Science: Test-Tube Life: Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.

The Supreme Court protects the genetic engineers

When Thomas Jefferson, an an amateur scientist himself, wrote the nation's first patent law in 1793, he was deter mined to ensure that "ingenuity should receive a liberal encouragement." Under his law, "any new and useful art, machine, manufacture or composition of matter" was patentable and thus legally shielded from theft. Last week, in a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court applied the Jeffersonian measure to one of the latest examples of human ingenuity. It ruled that new forms of life created in the laboratory could...

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