Journal of Community Genetics

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 95–107 | Cite as

Property and human genetic information

  • Morten Ebbe Juul NielsenEmail author
  • Nana Cecilie Halmsted Kongsholm
  • Jens Schovsbo
Original Article


Do donors (of samples from which genetic information is derived) have some sort of pre-legal (moral) or legal property right to that information? In this paper, we address this question from both a moral philosophical and a legal point of view. We argue that philosophical theories about property do not seem to support a positive answer: We have not mixed our labour with our genes, and the human genome cannot be said to be a fitting object for private ownership based on some idea of self-ownership. An analysis of the term ‘property’ as seen from a legal perspective yields the conclusion that property is, at best, a linguistic prop whose real content has to be defined at least partially conventionally. Relevant interests that may be seen to be protected seem to be interests of privacy or interests against exploitation. To the extent that the logic behind the patent system holds true limiting incentives decreases innovation in society. A balancing of interest must take place, and we have to make sure that patent protection serves general societal interests and not just those of special interest groups be that inventors or donors.


Genetic information Patent law Property Property rights Donors 


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Morten Ebbe Juul Nielsen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nana Cecilie Halmsted Kongsholm
    • 2
  • Jens Schovsbo
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Humanities & Department of Food and Resource EconomicsUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen SDenmark
  2. 2.Faculty of HumanitiesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen SDenmark
  3. 3.Centre for Information and Innovation Law (CIIR), Faculty of LawCopenhagen UniversityCopenhagen SDenmark

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