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Cell lines and commodities: The Hagahai patent case

Volume 4, Issue 1

November, 1997

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Robie, D. (1997). Cell lines and commodities: The Hagahai patent case. Pacific Journalism Review, 4 (1): 78-91.
Author(s): David Robie
Publication date: 
November, 1997

In March 1995, the United States government issued a patent on a human cell line for an indigenous Hagahai man from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) were issued patent No. 5,397,696 by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), the first time that an indigenous person's cells have been patented. Critics saw this is a 'new and dangerous' era in intellectual property rights while even defenders conceded there are serious dilemmas embracing ethics, the law and the media.