Crisis at the Patent Office:
Rethinking Governance of Biotechnology in the United States, Europe, and on the Global Stage


ACLS Fellowship Program


School of Public Policy


Using cases from medical and agricultural biotechnology, this study compares how patent systems created by the United States and Europe operate as sites that simultaneously produce knowledge and social order. In particular, it investigates: 1) how the patent office’s “technical” decisions are simultaneously social, moral, economic, and environmental ones; 2) how recent challenges from civil society groups are exposing the social dimensions of patent decisions and thereby eroding the office’s credibility and legitimacy; 3) how patent offices are responding to civil society groups and developing strategies to maintain standardized decisionmaking as well as public trust; and 4) how the patent offices’ responses are reshaping the production of knowledge and social order.