Ah, the classic "private property" vs. "share it" debate thrives in biology. Companies and patents hold intellectual "property" privately but there is a movement to put science information in "the commons." From Wired:
To push research forward, scientists need to draw from the best data
and innovations in their field. Much of the work, however, is patented,
leaving many academic and nonprofit researchers hamstrung. But an
Australian organization advocating an open-source approach to biology
hopes to free up biological data without violating intellectual
The battle lies between biotech companies like multinational Monsanto,
who can grant or deny the legal use of biological information, and
independent organizations like The Biological Innovation for Open
Society, or BIOS, and Science Commons. The indies want to give scientists free access to the latest methods in biotechnology through the web.
From the private property perspective:
"Patents attract investors, providing the resources necessary to bring
the product to market," said Brigid Quinn, deputy director of public
affairs with the U.S. patent office. "Patents are and have always been
an important part of this country’s economic fabric."
On the other hand:
…biologists in Kenya might be eager to create a genetically modified
sweet potato that could allow farmers to use fewer chemical
fertilizers. But if a company owns all or part of the gene sequence,
DNA fragment or the mechanism in question, the scientists’ hands are
tied unless they can pay a licensing fee. The corporations that own
such patents won’t invest in research unless they know a market is
waiting for the product.
"This is just the kernel of open-source biology," Jennings said.
Jennings sees open-source biology as part of science’s evolution, the
next logical step for science after the open access movement, in which
organizations like the Public Library of Science made scientific
journals freely available to anyone on the internet. Previously,
thousands of dollars were charged annually for subscriptions by
journals like Nature and Science.
Now people will be able to perform the same experiments found in these
free online journals and become part of the peer review and research