Public Biological Databases and the Sui Generis Database Right

Alexander Bernier, Christian Busse, Tania Bubela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sui generis database right is an intellectual property right created in the European Union to stimulate investment in the curation of databases. Since its inception, communities engaged in research and development efforts have questioned its potential to incentivise database production, and posit that it stifles productive downstream uses of existing datasets. European courts have restricted the right’s ambit through a restrictive interpretation of the circumstances in which it applies, which we argue, enables downstream use of biological databases. Nonetheless, residual ambiguities about potential infringement of the right exist. The prospect of unintentional infringement can frustrate downstream innovation. These ambiguities are compounded because the criteria that determine whether or not the right applies are reliant on information that is not available to the prospective downstream users of public datasets. Repealing the sui generis database right is recommended. Legislatures are advised to refrain from the implementation of broad novel intellectual property rights in the future, without first adopting safeguards that mitigate the potential for such rights to frustrate the reuse of available intangibles to the detriment of pro-social innovation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1316-1358
Number of pages43
JournalIIC International Review of Intellectual Property and Competition Law
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Innovation policy
  • Open science
  • Public biological databases
  • Sui generis database right


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