Australian government rejects ban on gene patenting

On 23 November 2011, the Australian Government issued its response to a Senate Committee report on gene patents. The Government’s response also addresses recommendations from three previous reports into gene patenting and patentable subject matter in Australia.

Most of the recommendations from these reports have been accepted or accepted in principle. In particular, the Government has taken a technology neutral approach and has rejected a ban on the patenting of genes and other biological materials. Instead, the government supported a clarification of the existing compulsory licence and Crown use provisions to ensure that Australians have reasonable access to essential healthcare treatments, including those which draw on gene-based technologies.

The government has also endorsed a number of recommendations aimed at increasing the quality of Australian patents, including broadening the prior art base for inventive step, and increasing the inventive step threshold and support and utility requirements.

Many of these recommendations have already been addressed by the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Bill 2011 which was introduced into the senate on 22 June 2011.

So far, the bill has only had its first reading in the Senate. However, the government’s response is likely to assist the Bill to gain support in the parliament and should also bring an end to the consideration of Private Members Bills which sought to ban the patenting of genes and biological materials in Australia.

Contact: If you have any specific enquiries about the government’s response, or gene patenting more generally, please contact Debra Tulloch.