Role of Intellectual Property Rights in protecting Biological Databases

Authors: Nupur Mondal1 and Gayacharan2
1 Department of Botany, Shivaji College, University of Delhi, New Delhi
2 Division of Germplasm Evaluation, ICAR- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, New Delhi

What is Bioinformatics?

Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary science that creates softwares and methods to understand biological data. It combines the knowledge of computer science, statistics and mathematics to analyze and interpret the biological information. Bioinformatics is mainly involved with:

-Creation, storage and management of large amount of biological data in form of Biological databases.

- Development of statistical tools to determine the relation between the different data members.

-Biological data analysis and their interpretation.

Classification of databases:

Biological databases can be generally classified into primary, secondary and composite databases.

Primary databases: A primary database contains biomolecular data in its original form. Example the primary databases for DNA/RNA are Genbank, EMBL (European Molecular Biology Laboratory) and DDBJ (DNA Data Bank of Japan; while for protein sequences they are SWISS-PROT and PIR (Protein Information Resource) and for molecular structures primary databases are PDB (Protein Data Bank).

Secondary databases: They contain information derived from analyses of primary data and are therefore considered to be relevant and useful information for particular work. Examples are Eukaryotic Promoter Database , UniGene, PROSITE, PRINTS and BLOCKS and many others.

Composite databases: They contain information from several primary database sources and are easy to use. Example of a composite database is the NCBI (National Centre for Biotechnology Information) database, which includes primary and secondary databases like GenBank, PubMed, OMIM, etc.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are legal rights that protect novel, unique and valuable creations in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields. Usually IPRs comprise of patents, copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs and trade secrets. Some of the important intellectual property rights are as follows:

Patent: A patent is a right conferred by the government of a country which allows a protection of an invention. The patent owner then has exclusive right to make, use and sell this invention inside the same country. To be patentable, an invention must be novel, unobvious and highly utilizable.

Copyright: Copyright is given to a creation which can be artistic, literary and musical. The copyright exists automatically just as soon as the creation is made. However, it is advantageous to register the copyright.

Trademark: A trade mark is a word or a group of words, sign or design which helps in identifying a particular product or service from others. The main function of a trademark is to identify the commercial source or origin of products or services.

Industrial designs: An industrial design is a right that protects the visual design of objects that are not totally utilitarian. It’s a design that can be a two- or three-dimensional pattern that are used to produce a product, industrial commodity or handicraft.

Trade secret: Trade secrets comprises of manufacturing of some goods or industrial and commercial secrets. Any person using such information in unauthorized way will commit an unfair practice and a violation of legal rights.

How Intellectual Property Rights govern Biological Databases: IPRs are important for protection of creators of new software and databases as well. Owning intellectual property in a biological database provide a significant power to those who are maintaining databases. The primary databases are not protected under any Intellectual Property Rights because the data generated are usually because of government funded or socially funded work and hence need to be available freely to the public. Moreover, this will encourage more development in the field of biology. The secondary databases need labor, skill and capital that usually come from individuals or companies Hence they are not always freely available to the public and can be protected under IPRs if the outcome is original and creative. While Composite databases fall under the norms of primary databases as they are comprised of data from a variety of primary databases.

About Author / Additional Info:
Working as Assistant Professor in Shivaji College, University of Delhi