Biomedical innovation and the geopolitics of patenting: China and the struggle for future territory

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In pursuit of biomedical innovation states are concerned with the policies that will provide them with the capacity to position themselves in the bioeconomies of the future. Patenting policy is a central part of this approach, because without intellectual property ownership the ability of any state to exploit the value of the future knowledge economy will be limited. In an era of globalization, state boundaries are inherently porous to flows of knowledge and finance, and the capture of the value generated by innovation is heavily dependent on ownership. In this context, the question this article addresses is how far China's strategy on patenting will enable it to achieve its ambition of challenging the global hegemony of the United States in the field of biomedical innovation to achieve competitive advantage. It begins by examining the politics that underpin the globalized system of patenting and patenting governance within which China's strategy is necessarily located. What is the balance of power in that system, and to what extent does it restrict or facilitate China's ability to maneuver in its own interests? Second, the article analyzes the nature of US dominance in the patenting domain in general and of biomedical innovation in particular. Third, it explores the basis for China's challenge in this domain and its implications for the control of future health technologies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-357
Number of pages17
JournalEast Asian Science, Technology and Society
Issue number3
Early online date20 Sept 2011
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011


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