jimsnail writes "J. Craig Venter and the Institute that bears his name are again moving into new territory in the field of genetics. Genetic patents, that is. They are seeking a broad patent that would give them ownership of a 'free living organism that can grow and replicate' constructed entirely from synthetic DNA. The ETC Group is challenging the claim. 'Scientists at the institute designed the bacterium to have a "minimal genome"--the smallest set of genes any organism can live on. The project, which began in the early 2000s, was partly a philosophical exercise: to help define life itself better by identifying its bare-bones requirements. But it was also fraught with commercial possibilities: if one could reliably recreate a standardized, minimal life form, other useful genes could be added in as needed for various purposes.'"