Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Aaron Fellmeth review in Bioethical Inquiry

Although Fellmeth finds the book insufficiently academic, and bemoans my failure to tie up the loose ends of all of the questions raised by gene patenting, he gives some praise:

"Judging by its provocative yet rhetorical title,
informal tone, and modest number of citations to the
work of others, Who Owns You? is clearly not
addressed to the academic or research communities;
nonetheless, it contains a good deal of helpful
information for the lay public relating to the relevant
(and some irrelevant) biology and biochemistry,
intellectual property law, and ethics of gene patenting.
Koepsell’s gift of conversational writing facilitates
communication of complex ideas to the uninitiated.
On the whole, the book explains much of its subject
matter well."

I did set out to write an accessible general introduction to the topic, and I find that people who have read the book are pleased with its style and tone, as well as interested in a topic they knew little about before reading the book. Moreover, I do admit quite clearly near the end of the book that many of the issues raised, including the link between genes and individuals, remain unanswered and outside the scope of the book.

Finally, Fellmeth's review points to a recurring issue, and that is that lawyers and legal scholars who read my arguments generally miss the point I make in elucidating a new theory of the commons, the "commons by necessity," and this is likely due to the positivist trend in legal scholarship. Steven Poole's review in The Guardian at least notes my "quirky" approach to natural law, which is at the heart to my conclusions about the genome being a "commons by necessity." Overall, I am happy with Fellmeth's review because unlike Holman, he is honest and comprehensive about the whole of the work. He approaches the whole book and not just parts of it, and his differences with my conclusions and approach are honest and not apparently tinged with any conflicting interests. Nonetheless, he takes issue with things that are arguable, and alleges that, for instance, patents on DNA cover something sufficiently "altered" to make them patentable. Here, it is clear we disagree, though like Holman, he calls this my "error."

I'm in touch with Fellmeth, and thanked him for the review. As I said to him, my books have met with reviews that range all over the map, but somehow, over time, the ideas I am working on developing, regarding the nature of ideas, property, the commons, and innovation, have benefited from good, honest, open debate. Judging from the positive response I received last week in NYC, and my interactions with the community of people both affected by gene patents personally, and working to eradicate them, I feel good about the future, and my contributions to changing the law.

No comments: