Coronavirus Update: Our team is here to help our clients and readers navigate these difficult times. Visit our Resources page now »

Skip to Main Content

Home Explore Careers

Biotechnology Patent Lawyers

History

Biotechnology patent law is a blending of two fields: science and law. The field of science dates back thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians, for example, organized knowledge about matter into systems, which was the beginning of chemistry. In the 4th century B.C., the field of biology advanced with the work of Greek philosopher Aristotle, who created taxonomic (classification) systems for animals. The 11th-century Persian philosopher and physician Avicenna wrote the Canon of Medicine, a compendium of medical knowledge. In the 19th century, Louis Pasteur, Matthias Schleiden, and Theodor Schwann contributed to the growth of the field of microbiology, and Gregor Mendel discovered the principles of genetics through his studies of peas. The modern history of genetics can be traced back to the early 1950s when James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA, the genetic material that makes up the most basic component of living organisms. The discovery of DNA led to the development of recombinant DNA techniques and, finally, the ability to genetically engineer cells and clone (make copies of) desired genes. These scientific advancements have resulted in such developments as nontoxic pesticides, longer lasting vegetables, advanced blood tests, and even Dolly, the cloned Scottish sheep.

The history of law also dates back thousands of years, although the area of patent law has been a relatively recent development. Dating back to the 1700s, people sought help from lawyers to protect their ideas and inventions from theft. Unfortunately, both lawyers and their clients were often frustrated in their attempts to gain support for patents and copyrights in court. By the 20th century, however, Congress and courts had begun to see innovative ideas and products as valuable to U.S. status in the global market. Today, scientists, researchers, and research companies involved with biotechnology rely on patent law to ensure that their discoveries and advancements are protected as their property. Biotechnology patent lawyers are the unique bridge between the scientific and legal worlds, making sure their clients receive the acknowledgements for and profits from their scientific work.

A major development in U.S. patent law was the passage of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which was signed into law in September 2011. Legal experts believe that it is the most significant change to the U.S. patent system in half a century. One of the main aspects of the law is the transition of U.S. patent law from a “first to invent” to a “first to file” system, which is the standard used by most other countries. Patents are awarded to the first company or individual that applies, rather than the first inventor. Critics of the law believe that it provides an advantage to large corporations, which have more legal and research resources than independent inventors.

Related Professions