Canadian patent law squeaky clean on Harvard mouse

Left: Seth Feldman

York Professor Seth Feldman’s latest documentary broadcast, The Case of the Harvard Mouse, will air on CBC Radio One’s “IDEAS” program Wednesday, June 4, at 9:05pm.

The program is about the failed attempts to patent an animal in Canada. It includes interviews with the man who invented the transgenic Harvard mouse, lawyers associated with the case and excerpts from the Supreme Court trial itself.

Researchers at Harvard University developed the controversial mouse – also called “oncomouse” – in the early 1980s, genetically modifying it so it was better suited for cancer research. The Supreme Court of Canada handed down a ruling in December 2002, saying it could not be patented under current Canadian law. It has been patented in the United States, much of Europe and Japan for more than a decade.

Right: Artist Bryan Crockett’s lifesize marble sculpture of “oncomouse”

Feldman, who teaches film and video in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, is the author and broadcaster of more than 20 radio documentary series. His program, Hunting for Robin Hood, won the Gold World Medal for Radio Programming (History) at the New York Festivals 2002. For information on the program visit

In 2000-2001, as York’s Robarts Chair in the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, Feldman curated The Triumph of Canadian Cinema, a series of lectures, screenings and panel discussions featuring some of the leading lights in Canadian film and television. More recently, he programmed the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival’s Canadian Retrospective series on pioneering Canadian filmmaker Allan King, and edited the book Allan King, launched in conjunction with the retrospective.