In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Utilitarianism and Patents:Justification and Change
  • Ho Calvin Wai Loon (bio)
Ho Calvin Wai Loon

Ho Calvin Wai Loon is Senior Research Associate with the Secretariat of the Bioethics Advisory Committee, an expert body established to provide the Singapore Government with advice on ethical, legal and social implications of biomedical research. His research interests include the ethics of human-animal combinations, synthetic biology and resource allocation in healthcare and biomedical research. Calvin has recently co-edited a book (with John Elliott and Sylvia Lim) entitled Bioethics in Singapore: The Ethical Microcosm (Singapore: World Scientific, 2010).


I am grateful for the very helpful comments of Professor Reider Lie and Dr Joseph Millum. All views and errors are my own.


1. Article 2, Section 8, of the US Constitution.

2. Ibid.

3. Mill, J.S. (2003). Utilitarianism and On Liberty, ed. M. Warnock, Wiley-Blackwell, Cornwall, 186.

4. For instance, concerns over disutility from broad monopolistic claims may have prompted the Canadian Supreme Court in Harvard College v. Canada (Commissioner of Patents) 219 D.L.R. (4th) 577 (2002) to adopt the minority position of the U.S. Supreme Court in Diamond v. Chakrabarty 447 U.S. 303 (1980). A similar rationale could be observed in the decision of the U.K. Supreme Court (then House of Lords) in Biogen v. Medeva Plc (1997) RPC 1.

5. Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is Annex 1C of the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization, signed in Marrakesh, Morocco on 15 April 1994: 1869 UNTS 299; 33 ILM 1197 (1994).

6. See for instance, discussion in Eisenberg, R.S. (2006) Biotech patents: looking backwards while moving forward, Nature Biotechnology, 24 (3), 317-9.

7. Rhoten, D. and W.W. Powell (2007) The Frontiers of Intellectual Property: Expanded Protection versus New Models of Open Science, Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences, 3, 345-73, 354.

8. Resnik, D.B. (2003) A Pluralistic Account of Intellectual Property, Journal of Business Ethics, 46, 319-35, 324.

9. See, for instance, the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Bonito Boats, Inc. v Thunder Craft Boats, Inc. (1989), 489, U.S. 141.

10. Becker, G.S. and R.A. Posner (2009) Uncommon Sense, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 61, 64.

11. Rhoten and Powell, Supra note 7.

12. Boldrin, M. and D.K. Levine (2008) Against Intellectual Monopoly, Cambridge University Press, New York.

13. Ten, C.-L., ed. (1999) Mill's Moral, Political and Legal Philosophy, Aldershoot/Brookfield, Ashgate/Darthmouth, xvi.

14. Haslett, D.W. (1990) What is Utility? Economics and Philosophy, 6, 65-94, 76.

15. West, H.R. (2004). An Introduction to Mill's Utilitarian Ethics, Cambridge University Press, New York, 193-4.

16. Ibid., 166.

17. Ibid., 16.

18. Sumner L.W. (2006) Utility and Capability, Utilitas, 18 (1), 1-19, 2-3. The term "generic welfarism" requires that "[t]he judgement of the relative goodness of states of affairs must be based exclusively on, and taken as an increasing function of, the respective collections of individual welfares in these states", and "welfare subjectivism" states that "[i]ndividual welfare is subjective (i.e. identical to utility)".

19. Ibid., 9.

20. Sen, A. (2010) The Place of Capability in a Theory of Justice. In Measuring Justice: Primary Goods and Capabilities, eds. H. Brighouse and I. Robeyns, Cambridge University Press, New York.

21. Weissman, R. (1996) A Long, Strange TRIPS: The Pharmaceutical Industry Drive to Harmonize Global Intellectual Property Rules, and the Remaining WTO Legal Alternatives Available to Third World Countries, University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law, 17 (4), 1069.

22. Historically, the patent system was developed in industrial society to deal with industrial devices and equipment. The suitability of applying the patent system to health-related products and processes has been queried. See generally the report of the U.K. Commission on Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR), Integrating Intellectual Property Rights and Development Policy (September 2002).

23. WT/MIN(01)/DEC/W/2, 14 November 2001.

24. See IP/C/W/312 (October 2001).

25. Paragraph 5(b) of the Doha Declaration.

26. Paragraph 4 of the Doha Declaration.

27. See Correa, C...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 202-217
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2017
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.