Law Meets Biology: Are Our Databases Eligible for Legal Protection?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Since the emergence of the Internet in the mid ’90s, online databases have played a central role in scientific research. In particular, as a consequence of the sequencing of several genomes, the quantity of information and thus the number of biological databases has drastically risen. Nonetheless, the fast and uncontrolled availability of this impressive quantity of data has suddenly led to several legal issues regarding their means of protection.

The European Database Directive provides a two-fold method of protection. The first scheme of protection is as an intellectual creation through copyright while the second scheme is the so called sui generis right. In accordance with the former, databases which, by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents, constitute the author’s own intellectual creation shall be protected as such by copyright. The latter focuses its attention on the protection of the investment spent on the creation of databases as a compilation of data.

According to the Directive, the only precondition for a database to be protected by the sui generis right is the substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the content of the database judged qualitatively and/or quantitatively. The investment refers not only to money but also time, effort, technical equipment and/or human resources. The main objective of the database right is to promote the database industry and only those databases which demonstrate a substantial investment are eligible for protection. Even though the Directive does not specifically mention the protection of databases containing biological data, neither does it expressly exclude them, given that the definition provided by the Directive is rather broad and allows room for interpretation. At first glance, it seems that all the conditions of the definition are fulfilled in the case of biological databases as their structure demands a great investment in terms of resources in obtaining, verifying and presenting the contents of the database. However, recent case law raised new issues that could make the scenario less clear.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSCRIPTed: A Journal of Law, Technology & Society
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)226-228
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Law - Biological Databases, Genetic Data, Data Directive, Database Protection, Sui Generis Right

ID: 227916125