©2010 Christopher Bart Barber, all rights reserved.
One of the more interesting cases of my lifetime (IMHO) is Association For Molecular Pathology et al v. United States Patent and Trademark Office et al. At issue in the case is whether the Myriad corporation can secure a patent covering the human genes BRCA1 and BRCA2.
At first glance, I have no real sympathy for Myriad. How can one patent not that which one has created but that which one has merely discovered? Didn't God make genes? Aren't we glad nobody patented gold? Water? Long walks in the park?
And yet, upon further reflection, how is Myriad's action different from that of a pastor who copyrights a sermon? Do you, as a pastor, pray asking God to guide you in your sermon preparation? Is it really entirely your creation? What about Christian music? I believe that it is not only illegal but is also immoral to make duplicates of a Mercy Me CD in order to avoid paying for their product. But why do I regard “I Can Only Imagine” differently than I regard the gene BRCA1?
It seems clear to me that I need to develop some sort of a biblical theology of intellectual property—some systematic approach to the topic that incorporates both a check against human hubris in exclusive credit for what God has done and an acknowledgement of the commandment not to steal. I haven't done that work for myself as of yet, but it is going onto my to-do list.