Federal MP in Second Push to Ban Gene Patents

Federal MP Melissa Parke appeared on The ABC’s Lateline last night, claiming the recently enacted Raising the Bar bill does not go far enough with respect to gene patents. Ms Parke is intending to introduce a new private member’s bill banning gene patents.

Ms Parke’s private member’s bill would be the second attempt to ban patents on genes. The scope of Senator Bill Heffernan’s earlier private member’s bill, introduced in November 2010, was considered too broad.

Specifically, Ms Parke considers that the Raising the Bar bill “[does] not address the issue of patentable subject matter. It [does] not cover gene patents. And that’s an omission that needs to be rectified.”

Further direction on this controversial issue may be provided by the landmark Australian test case Cancer Voices Australia & Anor v Myriad Genetics Inc & Ors, which has considered the validity of patent claims directed towards genetic material. The judgement in this case is expected later this year.

However, in considering what constitutes patentable subject matter, the Australian government is unlikely to move away from the positions adopted by many of Australia’s major trading partners, in particular the United States and Europe.  Furthermore, Australia has an obligation to provide patent protection in all technology areas, as a signatory to TRIPS. Phillips Ormonde Fitzpatrick attorneys, Dr. Mark Wickham and Dr. David Simmons, have provided a recent review on gene patents in Australia in Nature Biotechnology (2012) Vol. 30, pp.323–324. In the event you would like further advice on this issue, please contact Phillips Ormonde Fitzpatrick.