The Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys in Australia (IPTA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s response to the recommendations of the Senate Community Affairs Committee, the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property and the Australian Law Reform Commission in relation to the gene patents.
The Governments rejection of an outright ban on the patenting of genes and other biological materials clearly reinforces the crucial role of the patent system in fostering investment and development in medical research and will restore certainty and confidence in the biotechnology sector in Australia.
According to IPTA spokesperson Dr Tania Obranovich, "the Government’s recommendations are well placed and focus on ensuring the existence and application of patentability thresholds consistent with International standards, while simultaneously acknowledging the availability of safeguards already present in the Patents Act to control how a patent right is exercised and to thereby prevent abusive monopolistic behaviour".
"Importantly, the Government recognises the importance of ensuring fair and reasonable access to patented medical technologies, both in terms of community access to affordable healthcare and access for research purposes," Dr Obranovich said.
"Crucially, the recommendations highlight the importance that these outcomes be pursued in a technology neutral manner, ensuring community access to all technologies.
"This focus reflects the Governments appreciation of the outcomes which are sought by the wider community."
In its recommendations, the Government has acknowledged the significance of the Raising the Bar Bill, which seeks to raise Australian patentability thresholds. However, it does recommend that further legislative consideration be given to a number of issues, including the introduction of an ethical exclusion to the patenting of technologies where such patenting may be out of step with community values.
The Government's acceptance of the recommendation that patents to genes and biological materials not be banned should now bring an end to consideration of the Private Members Bills which seek to ban the patenting of these materials in Australia.
Were these Bills to be enacted, there would flow a raft of detrimental consequences across the healthcare, agriculture, food technology and livestock sectors.
"IPTA applauds the Government’s response and we look forward to continuing to work with the members of the scientific and legal community going forward,” Dr Obranovich said.
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