Patents on Life: Diamond v. Chakrabarty at 40

The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and George Mason University’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property (CPIP) invite you to a discussion.

Patents on Life:
Diamond v. Chakrabarty at 40

Wednesday, June 17, 2020
1:00 – 2:30 PM

Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of American History
1300 Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, DC
Coulter Performance Plaza (1st Floor, West Wing)

This program is free and open to the public–no registration required.


In June 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Diamond v. Chakrabarty authorized the first patent on an intentionally genetically modified organism and concluded that patents may be granted for “anything under the sun that is made by man.” The decision unleashed a wave of biotechnology innovations. Less well known, the Plant Protection Act of 1930 had allowed the patenting of selectively bred and cloned plants. On the 40th anniversary of Diamond v. Chakrabarty and the 90th anniversary of the Plant Protection Act, an expert panel will discuss breakthroughs in agricultural biotechnology and explore the impacts – economic and environmental – of these two major turning points. How did the rise of patented, GMO crops change farming? How did the Supreme Court’s decision change the patent system? How did developments in biotechnology reshape America’s innovation system?

Following the panel, everyone will have the opportunity to see historical artifacts and archives from Smithsonian’s collections and join a tour of relevant items on display around the museum.


1:00 – 2:30 PM Panel Discussion

  • Moderator: Arthur Daemmrich, Director, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
  • Ananda M. Chakrabarty, inventor and distinguished professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine
  • Dan Charles, science writer, National Public Radio food and agriculture correspondent
  • Daniel Kevles, Stanley Woodward Professor Emeritus of History, History of Medicine & American Studies, Yale University
  • Jennie Schmidt, farmer, registered dietitian nutritionist, and blogger at The Foodie Farmer
  • Closing Remarks: Sean O’Connor, Executive Director & Senior Scholar, Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University