Propertisation and commercialisation: on controlling the uses of human biomaterials

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Third parties, such as researchers and biotech companies, can and do legally acquire property rights in biomaterials. They are protected by the law of property in their use of these. Recent legal decisions have seen a move towards the tentative explicit recognition of some property rights in biomaterials vesting in the source of the materials. However, this recognition has not included income rights. This article discusses the interests that parties have in controlling the uses of biomaterials and the commercial interests that stem from those uses. The article argues that concerns regarding the allocation of property rights to the source generally elide property rights in biomaterials with the right to derive income from the transfer of those materials. Propertisation does not analytically entail commercialisation. It is therefore questionable whether it is reasonable to protect third parties' income rights, while excluding the source of the biomaterials from such protection.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-702
Number of pages26
JournalModern Law Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2014


  • Property rights, human tissue, human biomaterials, commodification, commercialisation