I recommend reading the post but here are some questions he addresses just to entice you:
First, the move raises a normative question: Why should we treat information about tangible things in a manner that is categorically different from the manner in which we treat information about intangible things? … Second, the move raises concerns about administrability. Is data about my expected longevity about something physical, namely my body?
As I am working on questions regarding intellectual property and the body (yes, Mike, I will respond to the larger question you posed), I look forward to more of Kevin’s thoughts on the topic. I understand part of Kevin’s point to be that tangibility seems to matter but that we need to understand why and in what contexts. I suggest that this problem, although appearing to be an old one, is appearing in many different ways across intellectual property. Put differently, what we mean by intangible and why that matters in one area may not fully capture what mean and why that does or does not matter in another. Yet one area is quite likely to borrow the words without the context and thus errors will ensue.
For those interested in more about IP and the body, check out Biolaw 2.0 which Andrew Torrance has developed. I will be commenting on Lee Silver‘s keynote. Silver’s work probes the way society understands genetic research and how religion clashes with such research. I will be looking at problems of the singularity and IP and how they may mirror the clash Silver identifies. As we have enhanced bodies with embedded devices that generate data, who owns the data? What control does an individual have or need? How does the possibility of individual control impact science and research? Is a balance possible?
Last, the Biolaw blog is another resource on the topic.