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International Conference – Patents on Life

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Patents on Life: Through the Lenses of Law, Religious Faith and Social Justice

4-5 September 2015

Hosted by the Von Hügel Institute, St. Edmund's College, University of Cambridge

Sponsored by the Von Hügel Institute and the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota (USA)

Venue: Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, CB3 0DF


Patents are monopoly ownerships for commercial exploitation and can also apply to living matter, from genes to plants and seeds, microorganisms to animals.

  • Should control of living matter be in the hands of private corporations? 
  • Are patents on seeds defensible in developing countries? 
  • Should information on the human genome be privatised? 
  • Who should decide when a patent should be forbidden on grounds of immorality?

This unique interdisciplinary conference will address these and other related ethical questions, and features top Vatican officials, academics, lawyers, industry professionals, theologians and representatives of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Who should attend? Lawyers and patent attorneys,* theologians, bioethicists, social and political scientists, environmentalists, life scientists and students of law, religion and social justice.

*This event is accredited with 11 hours CPD by the Law Society and the Bar Standards Board 

The full programme is available here.

List of speakers and panellists

From the Church – leaders on social justice, development, and IP:
  • Stephen ColecchiDirector of the Office of International Justice and Peace of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Dr. Carlo MarenghiIP & Trade Attaché: Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the UN Office in Geneva & WTO
  • Mons. Osvaldo Neves de Almeida, Secretariat of State, with responsibility for TRIPs (WTO), UNCTAD and formerly for WIPO
  • The Rt Rev John Sherrington, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, Department of Christian Responsibility, The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales
  • H.E. Archbishop Silvano M. TomasiApostolic Nuncio: Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN Office in Geneva & WTO
Legal academics – experts in patent and IP law from Europe and the US:
  • Prof. Margo A. Bagley, Hardy Cross Dillard Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Prof. Graham DutfieldProfessor of International Governance, University of Leeds School of Law, Member of the International Scholars Networks of Intellectual Property in the Biosciences
  • Prof. Paul HealdRichard W. and Marie L. Corman Professor of Law, University of Illinois
  • Dr Kathleen LiddellFaculty of Law, University of Cambridge and Director, Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences
  • Prof. Ruth OkedijiWilliam L. Prosser Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School
  • Prof. Joshua D. SarnoffProfessor of Law, DePaul University, USA
  • Prof. Brian Scarnecchia, Ave Maria School of Law, Franciscan University of Steubenville, USA
  • Prof. Ingrid SchneiderDepartment of Political Sciences, University of Hamburg, Research Centre for Biotechnology, Society and the Environment
  • Dr Katerina SideriIntellectual Property Advisor, Agricultural University of Athens; Member of the International Scholars Network of Intellectual Property in the Biosciences
From legal practice and industry:
  • The Hon. Mr Justice Richard ArnoldJudge of the High Court of England and Wales
  • Dr Julian CockbainEuropean Patent Lawyer, author, consultant and bioethics expert
  • Mark EngelmanBarrister and Head of IP at Hardwicke Chambers, Lincoln's Inn; Master of the Bench, Gray’s Inn; Von Hügel Institute Research Associate, St Edmund's College
  • Dr Michael Factor, leading Israeli Patent attorney and IP blogger
  • Martin Gouldstone, Head of Lifesciences Advisory, BDO
  • Dr Michael KockGlobal Head of IP, Syngenta
  • Christopher Rennie-SmithFormer Chair of the Biotech Board of Appeal and former Member of the Enlarged Board of Appeal at the European Patent Office
  • Dr Justin Turner QC, Barrister at Three New Square chambers, Lincoln’s Inn; Director of UKAD (the United Kingdom anti-doping agency); former member of the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC)
Theologians and ethicists:
Conference co-hosts:
    • Prof. Tom Berg, James L. Oberstar Professor of Law and Public Policy, University of St Thomas, Minnesota
    • Dr Roman Cholij, Von Hügel Institute Research Associate, St Edmund's College; IP Practitioner

We will aim, through the contributions of different stakeholders including legal authorities, academics, moral theologians, industry representatives and NGOs, to formulate key guiding propositions that should appear in discourses and decisions related to life patenting. The conference will draw upon the concerns and positions so far developed by religious authorities, especially (although not only) by the Roman Catholic Church, including through papal statements and those of diplomatic delegations of the Holy See, which has been an ongoing contributor to IP debates in international fora. The work of the conference will subsequently be published.

Download the flyer

Download the full page print ad (IPPro)

Download the half-page print ad (CIPA Journal)

Registration, Fees and Accommodation

Registration is now closed for this event

Information on getting to Murray Edwards College

For further questions, please contact:

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