International Neuroethics Patent Initiative


Patents granted in the field of neuroscience cover diverse areas of diagnostics, devices, data processing methods/computational models, and systems related to the central nervous system. Historically, patents have safeguarded the intellectual property of creative neuroscience inventors, and offered financial incentives for innovation. Today, however, the far-ranging scope of neuroscience patents may lead not only to obstacles to research, but to massive threats to personal rights, human dignity, and health data protection. Compounding this threat are notions about ?mind reading? and "the transparent brain" arising from new capabilities of both invasive and non-invasive brain computer interfaces (BCIs) involving signal recording and regional tissue stimulation variously in healthy individuals, and patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders. Here we propose to use methods from legal scholarship and the social sciences to: examine patents already granted, classify them into the applicable patent law, address the question of the viability of the patent law that applies to them,elucidate perspectives about the desirability and pitfalls of patents pertaining to brain from neuroscientists, patent lawyers, and patent officers, and close identified gaps that may place individuals, patients and society at risk. The limited discourse to date on brain patents is thus extended fully through this work and will, above all, be brought into patent law and policy decision-making.


Neurotechnology, Brain, patents, brain patents, brain sequence, nervous system, brain region patent, neural pattern

Call topic

ELSA of Neuroscience

Proposed runtime

2021 - 2024

Project team

Tade Spranger (Coordinator)
Germany (BMBF)
Judy Illes
Canada (INMHA)

Lay summary